Whitmer and GOP leaders say they’re working on budget targets

    Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

    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.

    Budget talks breaking down between Whitmer, GOP leaders

    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.”

    Whitmer and legislative leaders
    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield at the auto insurance reform bill signing, May 30, 2019 | Andrew Roth

    “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.

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    Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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