Whitmer outlines her priorities after budget vetoes

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday it’s time to mend Michigan’s budget after she vetoed nearly $1 billion from a Republican-passed spending plan, saying she would seek funding for prisons, reading coaches and a tuition-free program for nontraditional college students.

The Democrat said she would ask the Legislature to approve a supplemental bill to fund those programs and others, following an unusual process in which the GOP-controlled Legislature sent her a budget over which she had no input in recent weeks after road-funding talks broke down. She signed the plan this week while also issuing a historic number of vetoes.

Whitmer’s said her priorities included adequately funding three departments she said are at risk of not being able to protect public health and safety. She also wants to triple the number of literacy coaches and secure approval of her Reconnect program to provide tuition-free community college or technical training for an estimated 51,000 nontraditional students age 25 and older without an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

She did not indicate a desire to link passage of the legislation to her long-dead 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax increase.

“I am ready to look to the future, to sit down with the legislative leaders and negotiate a supplemental that shores up our budget on these particular fronts and others that they might be interested in chatting about,” said Whitmer, who is open to reversing some of her vetoes pending negotiations.

The vetoes affect significant parts of the budget, including funding for roads, hospitals, counties, need-based college scholarships, tourism advertising and charter schools. Whitmer was again especially critical of the Corrections Department budget, accusing Republicans of making “illegal” moves to help shift $400 million in discretionary general funds to roads and bridges. She vetoed most of that transfer.

Senate Republicans met privately Wednesday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake said Tuesday he was in “no rush” to participate in Whitmer’s “tug of war.”

“The budget is done. Now we go on to the next round of negotiations with regards to legislation. Supplemental (budgets) are always under consideration. So, we’re not saying never but right now the budget is done,” Shirkey said Wednesday.

Whitmer has tapped state Senator Curtis Hertel Jr., an East Lansing Democrat and the vice chair of appropriations, to try and get a supplemental appropriations bill.

Hertel says he doesn’t think Whitmer did anything wrong but admits both sides may have some fence-mending to do.

“There was no violation of any agreement or any handshake or anything else for that matter. So, I think that questioning doesn’t make any sense in this process. There has been trust broken on both sides. I guess it’s going to be hard to trust each other for a while” he said.

Shirkey summed it up by saying “she has not helped the relationship between our chamber and her, the governor’s office.”

Whitmer, Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, have agreed to meet on Thursday.

Line-item vetoes: http://bit.ly/2p0PZJ3

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