Whitmer rips GOP Lame Duck spending bill

    Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

    As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prepares to unveil her first budget in March, she said on Friday that she feels hamstrung by a last-minute spending spree from the previous GOP-led Legislature and signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder.

    Whitmer spoke at the Michigan Press Association’s annual luncheon in Grand Rapids. When asked about the $1.3 billion Lame Duck supplemental spending bill, Whitmer said she’s “not happy” that those appropriations will create challenges for her agenda.

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the Michigan Press Association conference in Grand Rapids, Feb. 1, 2019 | Nick Manes

    The legislation included $18 million for the state Senate to buy a parking ramp and $10 million for a ski jump in the Upper Peninsula.

    “It really compromises my ability to make sure that we live up to the expectations from this campaign,” Whitmer said. “… And I’m not happy about that. It’s really put us in a tough spot.”

    On the campaign trail and since becoming governor on Jan. 1, Whitmer has pushed to “fix the damn roads,” and improve education and workforce development. The roughly $100 million for pet projects makes funding for those initiatives difficult, she said.

    Whitmer got a mix of good news and bad news at last month’s semi-annual Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, where state budget experts determine how much money the government has.

    Michigan has about a $265 million budget surplus, but the Lame Duck spending bill drained $500 million from the state’s coffers, as the Advance previously reported.

    Whitmer said her office has explored whether they could reduce some of the spending or “have better oversight” over earmarks. That doesn’t appear to be an option, she said.

    “All of the legal analysis has come back and for the most part, we have to abide by [the supplemental],” Whitmer said.

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.

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