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    Budget talks back on rocks as Senate GOP still wants to limit gov’s power

    The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate adjourned Thursday without taking action on supplemental spending bills that would resolve Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s nearly $1 billion in budget vetoes, appearing to end a brief window of optimism.

    Senate Republicans and the Democratic governor continued to battle over the powers of the governor to transfer money within departmental budgets approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

    Senate and House Republicans want a change in state law to address the governor’s ability to make transfers. Whitmer has said she won’t relinquish her powers or the powers of a future governor.

    “Unless it has the weight of law, unfortunately, Gov. Whitmer has proven herself to be untrustworthy,” said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

    About three hours earlier, Whitmer said she and Republican legislative leaders were “close” to negotiating a supplemental spending bill that would resolve some budget cuts.

    “It means that the Legislature could take action today and get something to my desk and we can put a bow on the budget and be done with it,” the Democratic governor told reporters.

    But Whitmer admitted that she and GOP leaders hadn’t resolved their dispute over the powers of the State Administrative Board, which Whitmer used to make another $625 million in transfers within the GOP-controlled Legislature’s approved departmental budgets.

    Shirkey declined to answer questions Thursday morning as he left the office of House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

    Thursday is the last scheduled session day for the House before members leave on a three-week fall break. The Senate held a Thursday session and has two more session days next week before departing on its break.

    The legislative schedules could make Thursday a pivotal day for budget negotiations as nonprofits, rural hospitals and local government agencies wait to see if their state funding will be restored. If not, some of those groups have said they’ll have to begin deciding how to cut services.

    For example, Whitmer’s vetoes struck $1.02 million for the nonprofit Autism Alliance of Michigan to provide assistance to those with autism. The Autism Alliance is tapping into reserves and other resources to keep its efforts going, the organization’s president and CEO, Colleen Allen, recently said.

    “I need them to do it yesterday,” Allen said about a hoped-for resolution to the stalemate.

    Republicans have introduced 24 supplemental bills totaling more than $260 million, while Democratic Sen. Curtis Hertel of East Lansing, in consultation with Whitmer, has introduced two bills that would add $475 million.

    The GOP and Hertel both seek to restore about $1 million for the Autism Navigator and $34.2 million for a rate increase for isolated rural hospitals providing what is called critical access to care. Republican lawmakers want to add $74.6 million overall for five kinds of rural hospital services including the critical access rate hike.

    None of the bills addresses the end of $37.5 million for the Pure Michigan marketing campaign that Whitmer vetoed.

    The governor also vetoed $13 million for secondary road patrols, a state grant program that finances county deputies to patrol county and local roads outside of a city or village. About 120 county sheriff’s deputies could be laid off throughout the state should the secondary road patrol cuts take effect, said Rep. Mike Mueller, R-Linden, a former Livingston County deputy and sponsor of a bill to restore the funding.

    Whitmer said groups impacted by vetoes should be lobbying lawmakers.

    “They should be lobbying the Legislature to pass a supplemental, not play games, just get it to my desk,” she said.

    McCann countered later in the day, “The only person who chose to take their money away was Gov. Whitmer.”


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