GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan lawmakers approach their summer break, a budget for the upcoming fiscal year is not yet done.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, made her wish list known months ago. The Republican-led House and Senate then came up with their spending plans. Now, a handful of people are negotiating a final deal.
“We’ve had regular meetings and I can tell you we have negotiations going on the budget right now,” Whitmer said a couple of weeks ago. “My budget director is having meetings every day, all day, with leadership in both the House and the Senate.”
After a disastrous budget process in 2019, the first year for the current divided government in Lansing, the Legislature set a statue that made July 1 the cut-off date for getting a budget done — but the law also allowed for the ability to ignore that date, if necessary. Since then, none of the budgets have been completely done by July 1. Under the state constitution, Sept. 30 is the budget deadline, but that was pushed back in the mid-2000s. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Not counting Thursday, the House is scheduled to meet three days before the July 1 deadline and then be on recess until September. There will be two session days in July and August, but it’s any votes will be scheduled. The Senate has one session day and one tentative day scheduled before it takes summer recess.
Here’s what could happen: The Legislature could take a break without any budgets while key players continue negotiating, and lawmakers could come back anytime this summer to take final votes. A school aid bill (which sources say is largely agreed to) could be passed to meet the July 1 fiscal start for school districts and the rest of the budget could wait for final passage at a later date. A smaller budget could be passed to ensure government’s continuing function and later supplemental bills could be presented to spend more of the state’s record surpluses.
So what’s the holdup? It’s not that the state has too little money, but maybe that it has too much. With the increase in state revenues and federal COVID-19 recovery dollars still to be spent, the governor and Legislature have to work out how much to spend, how much to put in the rainy day fund and, perhaps most contentiously, how much and how to give back to taxpayers.
Regardless of what exactly it looks like, it is likely to be the largest in the state’s history at between $76 billion and $78 billion.