SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — It has been a decade since the state government shutdown that gave former Gov. Jennifer Granholm the dubious distinction of being the only Michigan governor to preside over two shutdowns.
Now Gov. Gretchen Whitmer faces a similar situation. Budget negotiations between Whitmer, a Democrat, and the Republican-led Legislature have broken down ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline to get it done. Lawmakers are working to send her spending bills next week regardless, but she could veto them.
For Granholm, the situation was different. She was governor as the state grappled with both massive deficits and the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Jennifer Granholm has not forgotten fighting with the state Legislature to get a budget for eight years between 2003 and 2011.
“Definitely the part of the job I miss the least,” said Granholm, who was speaking Thursday evening at South Haven High School. “It is so painful because they know the roads need to be fixed and they know money isn’t going to fall from the sky.”
She says the threat of shutdown can be the only way to get the job done.
“Unfortunately, in Michigan, we’ve had this gerrymandered legislature for so long that it does not contribute to being able to arrive at a compromise,” Granholm said. “But when it gets to a shutdown, that’s the point at which true negotiations can happen because it’s a disaster to keep a shutdown happening for a long period of time.”
She said the edge of or even going into a shutdown gives politicians cover to say they did all they could but that something had to be done to get government running again.
“You have to walk right up to the cliff, if not put a foot over it before you may actually get a deal,” Granholm said. “They know they’re going to come up with a solution that’s not robbing from pension funds or robbing from public education, it’s got to be long term, it can’t be one-time, they know it.”
She believes the current governor will get it done.
“I’m confident that they will get a deal, just may have to face a shutdown for a small period of time in order to make that happen,” Granholm said.
Whitmer could also choose to exercise her line-item veto power to cut out parts of the budget she doesn’t like while still keeping the government up and running. We could see next week what she does.
Granholm was visiting the Michigan lakeshore from the bay area of California, where she lives near her ailing father while also serving as a professor at UC Berkeley and promoting sustainability and green technology. She told the crowd of 500 gathered for the 2019 Speaker Series of South Haven that Michigan can reclaim its manufacturing greatness by looking toward a climate-friendly future.