Gov. Whitmer’s no good, very bad day on roads and budget
Talk about a bad hair week for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
This town is still abuzz with the dazzling number of moves and counter-moves she and the Republicans made concerning the roads and the budget. All the chatter about working together is out the window for the moment as both sides move unilaterally. Call it bipartisanship run amuck.
The latest and sometimes ugly back-and-forth began earlier this month, when the two GOP leaders and the governor met to work out a deal on raising a bunch of bucks for the roads. They exchanged proposals and agreed to disagree.
The Republican Senate and House leaders emerged and decided it was time to do what they wanted to do for months, i.e., extract the road debate from the budget debate. Recall the governor had repeatedly warned Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfiled that she would veto the budget if it did not contain a real fix for the roads.
It appears they were ready to call her bluff, so they issued a statement that, without the governor’s blessing, said they were moving ahead on the budget and, after that was done, then and only then would they sit down with her to iron out the pothole mess.
The day after the duo made that declaration, in a Donald Trump-like move, the governor’s office blasted the two GOP leaders for laying the groundwork for a possible Trump-like shutdown of government.
And the media reflected the gloves were off.
But the two GOP guys did not take her bait.
It was crickets from them, because they knew they were in a sweet spot.
If the governor followed through on her threat to veto the budget, there would be only one person responsible for a state government shutdown: Gretchen Whitmer.
On the other hand, if she backed off her promise and went along with them, that’s what they wanted.
The GOP guys knew that, either way they would win.
Friday turned into Saturday with word that the governor had set a news conference for Monday morning at 9 a.m. The Capitol press corps could read between the lines on where that puppy was headed and set their watches for Monday morning when an angry governor would let the GOP leaders have it.
But, on Sunday night, the governor called the two GOP guys and announced that she had agreed to put the road thing on hold. She dropped her veto threat and did a 180.
The news conference was scrubbed and, later that day, the governor explained her change of heart by saying she did it to make sure there was no government shutdown. She described herself as the “only adult in the room” and basically took a bow for taking action.
The line ticked off some of the “adults” in the room with her (namely the GOP leaders), but they had what they wanted and, with that, the two sides started negotiations on the new budget.
But that soon went poof.
Last Wednesday, the governor scuttled the bipartisan talks when the Republicans offered $500 million to fix the roads. She turned it down, calling it “a joke, a gimmick, phony and crap. She said the state needed $2.5 billion and the Republicans’ one-time money “would not cut it” and was not a permanent fix.
Republicans couldn’t believe it. She said she wanted more road money but was turning it down, they observed. The problem is, the GOP will say the governor had a chance to spend more on the roads but punted. She then has the tougher job of explaining to an uneducated citizenry on the ins and outs of “one-time fixes.” Her turning down the bucks is infinitely more difficult to explain.
The governor was asked if she had made any mistakes during all this, and she opined she had not.
But some Republicans disagree and even some Democrats were quietly scratching their heads, wondering, what the heck was she doing?