Snyder unveils a budget that's sure to bring lots of squabbles
There’s a famous old saying that man proposes, God disposes. Maybe, but in state politics, governors propose, legislators dispose.
The legislature has the power of the purse. Governor Rick Snyder today is unveiling a budget that a year ago, conservatives would have compared nastily to a Christmas tree.
It includes more money – lots of money – for Flint, of course, but also for higher education, community colleges and elementary schools. Higher education would get more, and so would the Healthy Kids’ Dental Fund. There’s even money here to pay for new drugs to treat Cystic Fibrosis and Hepatitis C.
A few real old-timers like me remember that money was supposed to be used for health care, but it never is.
And the governor has built in the money to pay for his rescue of the Detroit Public Schools. Except that instead of getting it from other school districts, he wants to raid that familiar piggy bank, the Tobacco Settlement Fund. A few real old-timers like me remember that money was supposed to be used for health care, but it never is.
What isn’t clear is how the governor plans to pay for all of this. He does plan for the first time since he’s been in office not to put any money in the state’s “rainy day” or budget stabilization fund, but that’s not enough to cover all the new spending.
What seems even harder to believe is that he can get this through the Legislature, especially in an election year.
There are members who, if they were in Congress, would refuse to vote for a tax increase for defense even if the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor again.
I am talking about Tea Party Republicans.
They, and some others, will also be fearful of a primary election challenge from their right if they approve big spending proposals.
Included in the governor’s $195 million request for new money for Flint is $50 million for spending programs he can’t or won’t even designate yet.
Good luck getting that passed by lawmakers who for three years wouldn’t even come up with money to fix the roads, even though their constituents were screaming for them to do so.
My guess is the governor will get some of his Flint request, but not all. The Legislature immediately gave him the first $28 million he asked for without objection. The national outrage was so high, and the state’s guilt so clear, they had very little choice.
... you can expect this baby to have radical surgery before it ever leaves the maternity ward.
But no one in power is from Flint – unless you count Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, whose party has so few members in the upper house you could pack them all into two minivans.
As time goes on, and new crises emerge to distract popular opinion, Flint is bound to fade somewhat from the public consciousness.
This budget isn’t going to be finally passed this week, or this month, or even next month.
There are going to be changes and lots of squabbles. The governor has been particularly proud that the state has passed a final budget well ahead of the deadline every year he’s been there.
That provided a welcome contrast with the Granholm years, when the state seemed to flirt with shutdown every late September as the budget deadline approached. I might not call this budget dead on arrival, but you can expect this baby to have radical surgery before it ever leaves the maternity ward.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.