Can today’s leaders avoid Gov. Granholm’s shutdown woes?
The tick-tock of the state Capitol clock was getting louder by the minute as the bewitching budget deadline midnight hour was closing in on then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon, and GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. To be sure, they had labored for months to finish the state budget by Oct. 1, but there was Oct. 1 just hours away, and no budget deal in hand.
Ms. Granholm darted into the office of Mr. Dillon, ignoring the newshounds who were dogging her every move shouting out, “Do you have a deal?” She did not, which is why she sneaked out a side door, leaving the hounds without a story. Defeat was nipping at the high-achiever-governor’s heels.
But, when the clock struck 12, that’s what she had. A goose egg.
The previous time there was a headline trumpeting shutdown of state government, the governor was Soapy Williams, back in the 1950s.
The image-legacy-conscious first female governor, Granholm, did not want to join Soapy in the history books.
But she did.
By 8 a.m., there was a budget, and the shutdown, coming in the middle of the night, did not impact any of the residents who dozed through it.
But, years later, that historic moment serves as a reminder.
The threat of another shutdown hangs ever the Capitol like a bad recurring nightmare. And, this time, the second female governor is still waiting for the two new GOP leaders to show her their budget. She showed them hers over 160 days ago.
“Time is precariously close to the end of the fiscal year,” warned this governor, Gretchen Whitmer. “This is serious.”
She stated the obvious, hoping not to join Ms. Granholm and Soapy in the history books.
Political correspondents love the story. It’s great copy, as they say. A government shutdown fits nicely into the narrative that government is sometimes dysfunctional and, despite good intentions, they can’t figure out how to finish a budget on time.
“Everyone has said they don’t want to get close to a showdown,” she told those reporters the other day, and then poked a big hole in the potential headline: “Michigan government closed for business again.”
She’s got a plan B.
“If we have good-faith negotiations and we’re not able to get things done on time, I’m confident we’ll do that.”
Pass a continuation budget.
A continuation what?
Gov. Whitmer lived through the last shutdown, and she knows there can be hiccups in trying to pen a budget, so her plan is to extend the current state budget, giving her and the two GOP leaders more time to drink some water to cure the hiccups.
So maybe the media can’t write about the trio being dysfunctional, just like Granholm, Dillon and Bishop.
Adding his confident voice to the dialogue is the GOP Senate Leader Mike Shirkey, who was nowhere to be found the last time the shutdown went down.
“There will be no government shutdown. There’s no reason for it,” he boasted, which is precariously close to what Senate Leader Mike Bishop uttered years ago.
But, in fairness, this current trio of leaders has one thing going for them that the previous bunch did not. These three are actually working together, and they are serious about avoiding shutdown again. Back then, Ms. Granholm found herself not only battling Mr. Bishop, but, much to her chagrin, oftentimes found her own guy, Mr. Dillon, singing off the same songbook as Mr Bishop.
Ms. Whitmer and her two gentleman partners from the other party have their differences, and it could get ugly as they put pencil to budget paper to decide where your tax dollars should go and what state services should be sliced and diced.
But, in the end, the popular wisdom this time out is they’ll work a deal long before the midnight hour, when Cinderella’s coach turns back into a pumpkin.
And, if they fail, the headline writers are ready to let it rip.