Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is defending her decision to line-item veto legislation removing $10 million to compensate people wrongfully convicted. The money is needed to replenish the nearly depleted compensation fund.
The money was in legislation to improve transparency and reporting for the compensation fund.
Whitmer says the money should instead be part of a supplemental budget bill.
“We have a vehicle to actually fund it… they should put the $10 million in that supplemental and get it to my desk and we can do it right,” says Whitmer. “And respect people’s constitutional rights in this state."
The bill’s Republican sponsor is criticizing the Democratic governor's line-item veto.
Rep. Steve Johnson accuses Whitmer of "playing politics" to gain leverage for other spending she wants in supplemental budget legislation.
Whitmer points her finger at Republican lawmakers, accusing them of playing politics with those seeking compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned.
“They’re being victimized by a legislature that’s not doing it right,” says Whitmer. “They know how they’re supposed to be appropriating money. They know there is an accountable way of doing it. And there’s a vehicle. They could do it tomorrow.”
Attorney Wolfgang Mueller represents a number of wrongfully convicted ex-prisoners. He says many of them have waited too long for state compensation already.
“It seems that they are caught in the middle of a political chess game between the Republicans in the legislature and the governor," Mueller said of his clients.
“For people who critically need this money to get on with their lives, it seems absurd that the money is not there when the statute promises compensation for being wrongfully convicted.”
Mueller says the legislation itself is a good thing, and he's confident that money to replenish the fund will eventually be allocted. "I just can't predict when," he said.