News and Analysis

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Budget talks begin in earnest

20 March — Leaders from both houses of the Legislature finally sat down to negotiate with the Governor over their competing plans for closing the current state budget deficit. House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), along with other key lawmakers, met with Gov. Jennifer Granholm in private for several hours today. When they emerged from the meeting, they agreed that the talks had been “productive,” but all of them declined to provide any specifics.

More posturing than substance on budget

19 March — The posturing is well under way before the three-way budget negotiations begin.

Town Hall meeting on the state budget

Washtenaw County legislators met with local citizens, city leaders and school officials tonight to explain the current state budget crisis and seek public support for their solutions. Speaking to a very interested audience, the four Democratic lawmakers underlined their commitment to finding new sources of revenue for the state budget and school aid fund rather than relying on further cuts to balance the budget.

Few facts available about budget talks

14 March — News reports from Lansing about the budget negotiations are bringing many hints but few hard facts. There are reports that House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) are nearing agreement on a package of budget cuts and accounting changes that would plug the gap in the current fiscal year budget, including school aid, without new taxes. Reportedly, the package funds school foundation allowances as originally budgeted but includes cuts in “categorical spending” programs for schools.

Pensions and health care in the spotlight

12 March — Uncertainty continues to surround budget talks at the Capitol, but there are hints in news reports that some legislators may be inching towards attacking health care costs by making teachers state employees. [Update: press reports indicate that the bipartisan working group on the budget has unraveled, leaving the leaders of the two chambers to hammer out potential solutions.]

Negotiations begin

8 March — Lawmakers representing both parties from the House and Senate did meet yesterday and today to try and hammer out a budget compromise. The talks were cloaked in secrecy, but apparently involved more than just the six lawmakers named earlier; the Governor’s office was also represented, as was the Senate majority leader. The talks continue as the clock ticks on the school funding gap and the General Fund deficit.

Lawmakers nervous about tax plans

7 March — The bipartisan joint working group on the state budget did not meet today as planned, and the reasons are unclear. The schedule change came amid talk in the capitol that House Democrats were looking for alternatives to the Governor’s budget proposal, especially the 2% tax on services.

Bipartisan panel to meet

Six members from both parties and houses will be meeting starting Wednesday (March 7) to work out a compromise on plugging the hole in the current year’s budget. The group has set a March 15 deadline for their report, which is also the date by which Governor Granholm wants a budget agreement passed. Republicans have objected to the Governor’s tying together solutions for the current and next fiscal years, because they feel it artificially builds pressure to increase taxes.

Budget talks begin; school reserves questioned

1 March — Talks on the state budget deficit for this year and next, including what to do about the hole in the School Aid Fund, have begun in earnest now that Governor Granholm’s budget proposals have been introduced as bills in the legislature. (For details on the budget proposals, see our summary on this page.) The Governor and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) have had their first face-to-face meeting about the budget after an earlier exchange of letters.

Letters from the trenches

Public school officials have begun to speak out about the funding crisis which faces schools across the state. They not only decry the repeated resort to mid-year funding cuts, they also call for a reassessment of how public education is funded.