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Budget vacation means nasty words

From time to time, Michigan governors have had a love-hate relationship with those in the legislative branch, and, oftentimes, there is more of the latter than the former.

Remarking on efforts to eliminate the two houses of the Legislature and replace them with one house — the so-called unicameral system — Ex-Gov. William Milliken once told the media: “Sometimes I think the proposal should go further,” implying that both houses should be wiped out.

Ex-Gov. Jim Blanchard, in the midst of a budget struggle in which lawmakers were spending more than they should, remarked that “they are acting like a bunch of drunken sailors.”

Oh, my. The “drunken sailors” love that.

Now comes the current governor with her own bone to pick with the GOP Legislature over its failure to continue an eight-year tradition of finishing the new state budget by the month of July.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lamented the other day that she was working all summer and lawmakers should, too. They are, of course, on a summer hiatus, to which she opines, “No one in Michigan and no one in any other field is allowed to go on a vacation until they get their work done.”

On the very day she uttered the criticism, the state Senate GOP leader, Mike Shirkey, advised the news media that he’s “got half of my caucus here today working on the budget and fixing the roads. Anybody who claims we’re on vacation obviously has their head someplace that I prefer not to mention right now.”

Remember that the governor and Mr. Shirkey and the other key GOP leader, House Speaker Lee Chatfield, are supposedly on a mission to mold a stronger, bipartisan working relationship to solve your problems, but this exchange suggests they need some counseling, pronto.

In her performance, the governor advised reporters that she was angry, adding, “everyone should be angry. This is three weeks of vacation this year since they took off, and week four is next.”

Mr. Shirkey admonished the governor, but not by name, with this diddy: “This is the beginning of a long negotiating process, so I don’t think everyone should get upset and all tied up in their underpants over our scheduling right now.”

Yeah. You read the right.

The governor laughed when informed of the “underpants” quote and offered this: “As for solicitous talking points, I don’t know if they’re getting tips from the White House, but I’m not gong to engage beyond that.”

And, after that, she and he had lunch together.

Go figure.

The governor is especially worried about the schools, where officials have already drafted their next budgets, which began July 1, but did so with the state assistance piece missing. She admonishes the R’s: “That’s bad for the kids.”

But the new state school superintendent is not nearly as concerned.

“It’s an inconvenience and the world is not going to end,” Dr. Michael Rice reflects. He correctly recalls that, for years, the schools set their budgets in the dark and, when they got their state numbers, they plugged them in.

“It’s more important that we get it right than in a timely manner,” he concludes.

Nonetheless, the governor will continue to gripe, but with a deadline of Oct. 1 for wrapping up the state budget, no one is predicting there will be a government shutdown, because there’s plenty of time to resolve this.

Even the governor’s Democratic leader in the state Senate, Jim Ananich, D-Flint, admits: “We don’t have to be in our seats while we are waiting for a deal.”

Apparently, the governor doesn’t agree.