Sometimes the slow progress of government processes is no one’s fault. Sometimes it’s a partisan issue. In the case of Michigan’s ongoing budget negotiations—which should and could have been resolved already—there is exactly one person to blame: Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.
This whole process started back in March, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer introduced a budget that would fund our public schools, clean up our water, and finally make some real headway on fixing the damn roads. Predictably, Republican lawmakers came out against it.
Despite making it very clear that they weren’t on board with Whitmer’s plan, the GOP waited an awfully long time to bring their own solutions to the table, even taking a two-month summer break while Michiganders waited for a budget. When they did release ideas, those ideas tended to be problematic half-solutions, like selling a publicly-owned bridge to generate funding for road repairs or turning many of Michigan’s roads back to gravel.
This fall, the legislature finally got to work and passed their own budget, which fell well short of the funding levels Whitmer proposed for our communities’ priorities and included money for a variety of legislators’ pet projects. When Whitmer rightfully line-item vetoed the pork, Republican legislators went straight to the press to complain about her use of executive powers.
Next, they started pushing a “solution” that involved Whitmer signing away constitutionally guaranteed executive powers of the governor’s office in exchange for a deal, which—shockingly—she wasn’t willing to do.
At that point, Gov. Whitmer and House Speaker Lee Chatfield entered talks to reach a consensus on the budget. The result: an agreement both sides could live with that would solve the most pressing problems with the negotiations and give agencies and organizations across the state the answers they need on how much funding they’ll be getting for the next year.
Whitmer and Chatfield don’t agree on much, but that’s what grown-ups do: they get the job done. Unfortunately, Shirkey wasn’t, and still isn’t on board, and has instead chosen to walk away from negotiations.
The budget supplementals can’t be finalized without the Senate, and the Senate can’t do their job without Shirkey’s participation—which leaves our state in a pretty big mess. Mike Shirkey is putting his own ego above the people’s needs and holding the budget process hostage—and that’s unacceptable.
So, Mike, if you’re reading this: It’s time to put on your big boy pants and grow the hell up, because your constituents and people across the state need you.