After a war of words in recent weeks over the Fiscal Year 2020 budget — which has to be signed by Sept. 30 to avert a partial government shutdown — the governor and GOP legislative leaders appear to be back at the table.
On Monday morning, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) issued a joint statement (sent by the governor’s office) that they’ve agreed to “immediately begin” work on setting budget targets, a traditional step in the process in which the executive and legislative branches agree to overall figures for spending areas.
Last week, Shirkey and Chatfield set budget conference committees and indicated they would just begin passing budgets without input from Whitmer. There was some indication of progress when Whitmer’s office on Sunday canceled a scheduled press conference for Monday morning, in which she was expected to lay into GOP leaders.
The trio also said that they would “table” conversations about road funding, Whitmer’s top priority, but “continue conversations.”
“The people of Michigan deserve leadership in Lansing that will work to continue providing them with services they depend on every day. In conversations over the weekend, we’ve agreed that the best course of action is to immediately begin target-setting with legislative and executive leadership to get a budget passed by October 1st,” Whitmer, Shirkey and Chatfield said in a statement. “We have all agreed to continue conversations about road funding in a meaningful way and table all associated issues for the time being. Right now, our number one priority is getting a budget passed. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and negotiating on behalf of the people of Michigan.”
The state has been making plans for a government shutdown, which Michigan experienced in 2007 and 2009, with state Budget Director Chris Kolb last month asking department heads for “a comprehensive list of all functions and services within your department, including administrative functions,” in an effort to determine what areas would be affected in the event of a shutdown.