Whitmer-backed budget bill is ‘olive branch’ to GOP
LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed undoing some of her budget vetoes Thursday, a move that a Democratic ally described as an “olive branch” to Republicans who run Michigan’s Legislature.
Much of the proposed $476 million in supplemental spending reflects Whitmer priorities that GOP lawmakers did not include in the $59 billion budget she signed last week, such as covering tuition for those 25 and older to attend community college or complete an occupational certificate.
But the legislation also would fully or mostly restore four of the 147 line-item vetoes she issued: a Medicaid reimbursement rate increase for rural hospitals and funding for an autism nonprofit, county-based veteran services and road patrols done by sheriff’s deputies.
The items were also on an initial list of about two-dozen vetoes that Republicans this week proposed reversing with their own bills.
“It fixes some of the structural problems that were in the original budget — the things that were missing — but it also is an olive branch,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. of East Lansing, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It’s an attempt to start real conversations and show that the governor’s willing to negotiate.”
Whitmer met with GOP leaders Thursday. Both House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey described the meeting as “productive.” They will meet again next week.
Whitmer described the Republican- and Democratic-sponsored measures as “opening salvos for a conversation.”
Budget talks broke down a month ago over shifting discretionary funds to repair roads, leading legislators to send Whitmer a plan in which she had no final input after she was accused of walking away from negotiations. She has said Republicans gave her “ultimatums.”
Democrats’ two supplemental bills would total $476 million, not including $100 million that would go into a reserve fund. The proposed spending equals half of the $947 million she nixed. It also would partly or fully restore some funding that Whitmer unilaterally shifted within department budgets.
Whitmer’s priorities include providing additional funding to three departments — Corrections; Technology, Management and Budget; and Health and Human Services — that she has said are at risk of not being able to protect public health and safety due to cuts. She also wants an additional $2 million for a new commission that will draw congressional and legislative districts in 2021.
As of now, the Legislature has authorized $3.2 million for the panel.