GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told News 8 last week that she had never voted against a state budget during her time in the state Legislature, she was referring to immediate effect, not necessarily the budget itself, her office clarified Monday.
Whitmer spoke with News 8 about the budgeting process while on Mackinac Island for the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference. In a closely divided Legislature, Democrats hold the majority they need to push through the budget without Republicans. But they must get some Republicans on board for a two-thirds immediate effect vote that would allow it to go into effect right away. Democrats, not surprisingly, were on balance more optimistic than Republicans when asked how negotiations were going.
But one answer from the governor had some Republicans crying foul. News 8 asked if the budget could be bipartisan after many Democratic priority bills have passed along party lines and how much consideration the minority was getting.
“I know the (Democratic leaders in the) Legislature has pulled in the minority. They’ve had ample opportunity to work on the budget together at that level. But ultimately, you’re right, we’ve got to get budgets done. They need to be bipartisan,” Whitmer replied. “The whole time I was in the Legislature, I voted for every budget. I had certain feelings on certain sub-budgets within an omnibus but at the end of the day, if you want to fund schools, make sure our hospitals stay open, and that cops and first responders have the resources they need, we’ve got to get these budgets done and give them immediate effect.”
Some Republicans were quick to point out that the governor had voted against a number of budgets including, according to the Journal of the Senate, all of those during the Snyder administration while she was in the Legislature.
Pressed on the discrepancy, a spokesperson for Whitmer’s office said she was referring to immediate effect when she said she voted for all budgets.
It could be true that she voted to give immediate effect to all of the budgets considered while she was a lawmaker, but we may never know for certain because most of those votes are not by roll call, meaning there is no record of who voted for or against them in the journal.
Also worth noting is that at the time of the votes, beginning in 2011, Republicans had the 26 votes needed for immediate effect without Democrats.
This year’s budget process is different. Six Republicans will have to vote yes for the budget to get immediate effect by the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year. If immediate effect fails, the budget would go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. If for no other reason than optics, it’s in legislators’ best interest to get the budget done by the July 1 deadline set by state law.