News Article Details

Lawmakers introduce bills to reverse many of Whitmer's line-item vetoes

Detroit Free Press - 10/9/2019

Oct. 8--LANSING -- Republican lawmakers introduced about two dozen bills Tuesday aimed at reversing many of the budget vetoes enacted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Funding for autism support groups and charter schools, tuition support for students at private colleges, services at rural hospitals, and payments in lieu of taxes to counties for state-owned land are among the Whitmer vetoes targeted by the bills.

Vetoed funding that would not be restored through the bills includes $375 million for road and bridge repairs and $37 million for the Pure Michigan tourism and state branding campaign.

The bills -- introduced in similar versions in both the House and Senate and referred to appropriations committees -- could put additional pressure on Whitmer, a Democrat, ahead of a planned Thursday meeting between her and the four House and Senate leaders from the two political parties.

The introduction of the bills suggests the Republican-controlled Legislature is preparing -- at least as one option -- to restore some of the specific items cut and see whether Whitmer is prepared to veto them a second time.

Last Monday and Tuesday, Whitmer used line-item vetoes to cut $947 million from the $59 billion budget sent to her by state lawmakers and used State Administrative Board powers to shift more than $600 million within 13 state departments. She also declared unconstitutional or otherwise unenforceable 72 boilerplate items that set conditions or gave direction on how certain money could be spent.

Though Whitmer described some of the vetoes as cuts to budget "pork," others drew strong pushback and criticism from health organizations, counties and townships.

Many of Whitmer's vetoes were aimed at Republican districts and causes in what she described as an effort to get Republicans back to the table to negotiate budget changes she wanted, including extra money for the Michigan Department of Corrections, state cyber security, and school literacy programs.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, rebuffed Whitmer's immediate efforts to restart budget negotiations, saying the budget was completed, at least for the time being.

House Minority Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, said it's clear that Republican declarations that Whitmer's vetoes completed the budget amounted to "fake news."

"I'm glad to see that we're getting back to the table to negotiate these many items," she said.

Gideon D'Assandro, a spokesman for Chatfield, said 23 supplemental bills were introduced in the House to restore $257 million in funding vetoed by Whitmer. Another bill will soon be introduced to restore funding that Whitmer vetoed for isolated school districts, he said. That will bring the total amount covered by the bills to $264 million, he said.

Overriding a governor's veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber, but that involves sending the budget bills, complete with the same bill numbers, back to Whitmer with changes specified to certain line-item vetoes that she made. The bills introduced Tuesday have fresh bill numbers. Even though they contain exactly the same amounts of money for many of the same programs Whitmer vetoed earlier, they are not considered veto override bills. That means they can pass with simple majority votes, and Whitmer can veto them if she wishes.

D'Assandro said veto overrides of the various budget bills, using the same bill numbers as the bills that received line-item vetoes, are also being prepared as another option. Those bills would require supermajority votes to pass, and Whitmer would not be able to veto them a second time.

Whitmer said Monday it is her "fervent hope" that she and the Republican legislative leaders can return to the table "and actually hash out some of the differences that we have."

On Tuesday, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said: "It's clear Republicans agree the budget isn't done, and that's a good thing."

Brown said Whitmer is ready to "work across the aisle," but cited the need to restore funding that Republicans cut from Whitmer's budget proposal, and which she says is needed "to protect the health and safety of the people of Michigan."

That includes money to monitor the electronic tethers of sex offenders and drunk drivers and to protect taxpayers' Social Security numbers from computer hackers, Brown said.

Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, will also be introducing a supplemental appropriation bill, on Thursday, Brown said.

Vetoed funding that would be restored under Tuesday's GOP Senate bills include:

-- Dementia care and support: $400,000.

-- Rural obstetricians: $8 million.

-- Medicaid funding for rural hospitals: $16.6 million.

-- Pediatric psychiatrist rate increase: $10.7 million.

-- Rate increase for neonatologists: $5.2 million.

-- Rate increase for "critical access" hospitals: $34.2 million.

-- Autism navigator program: $1 million.

-- Autism "Train the Trainer" program: $100,000.

-- Autism interventions: $350,000.

-- The Michigan Child Care Fund in the Department of Health and Human Services: $4.2 million.

-- Senior citizen program grants: $500,000.

-- Opioid response grants: $1.2 million.

-- Project ECHO (rural health care): $40,000.

-- Sheriffs' secondary road patrol: $13.1 million.

-- Tuition grants for private colleges: $38 million.

-- County veteran services: $4 million.

-- Increased foundation grant for charter schools: $35 million.

-- Summer school reading program: $15 million.

-- Career and technical education equipment grants: $10 million.

-- "Secure schools" grants: $10 million.

-- Payments in lieu of taxes to counties: $8.7 million.

-- PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) grants for airports: $15 million.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.

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