Whitmer won’t accept ‘status quo’ in road, budget talks

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she won’t sign a “status-quo” budget, stepping up her criticism of Republican legislative leaders for “not offering a viable alternative” to her proposed 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike to fix the roads.

The Democratic governor held a news conference Wednesday, about a month before the state budget deadline of Sept. 30.

She says GOP lawmakers are “screwing around” and have not offered a legitimate plan nearly six months after she made her proposal. She criticized their call to shift money for schools to the transportation budget.

Whitmer says her proposal is “a smart, balanced budget,” noting it has “$2.5 billion for roads and infrastructure, ends the shell game our leaders have stolen from our kids’ schools to shore up budget shortfalls.”

She also officially ruled out taking longer to address unfunded liabilities in the Public School Employees’ Retirement System to free up revenue for roads.

Whitmer says she refuses to “kick the can down the road.”

“I’m at the table and I’m ready to negotiate. I am working to make sure we have a deal to avoid a shutdown. But it’s time for the Republican-led legislature to get serious, to get back to work, to stop screwing around and to get it done,” Whitmer said.

Republicans say drivers oppose a 45-cent gas tax increase.

“Unfortunately, the Governor is holding up the budget process at this point because of her insistence on a 45 cent gas tax,” said House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who says he’s willing to meet the Governor halfway.

All sides agree that with the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, getting a budget done is imperative.

“A government shutdown is not an option at this point. The Governor seems to be the only person eager to talk about a government shutdown,” Chatfield said.

It is not at all clear if Whitmer is willing to proceed on a spending plan without getting the new revenue she asked for.

“There is no budget crisis. This is a fabricated crisis by my Governor to try to tie in roads to the budget, which I agreed to try and do at the beginning of the year. But as we progressed, I said ‘I think we should separate the two,'” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

Lawmakers and Whitmer have about 13 session days till the end of September to try to find a budget answer.  

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