By Sen. Dan Lauwers, 25th Senate District
I have been witness to a recent blame-game in Lansing. The Legislature sent the governor a balanced budget. The governor vetoed 147 items, shifted spending to pet priorities and blamed the Legislature for causing the problem. When people called me to ask why their budget was cut, all I could say is, “I voted for your budget. The governor took it away. You need to call her — the one who cut it — before I can help.”
In Michigan, as in most states, the governor, the Legislature and the Supreme Court form the three co-equal branches of government. Delegated to each branch are its own duties and responsibilities, and each branch is expected to operate according to those duties and responsibilities and not those of the other branches.
As required in the Michigan Constitution, one of the responsibilities of the Legislature is to pass a balanced state budget on time each year and send it to the governor to be signed into law. More than eight weeks ago, I, along with my colleagues in the Senate and House, did just that: We sent the governor a balanced fiscal year 2020 budget that increases investments in key priorities while ensuring state government operates within its means.
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This was not done in a vacuum, nor was this done in a partisan fashion. Contrary to what is so often perceived, the budget was fashioned through many hours of meetings and committee hearings in the House and the Senate with both parties securing areas of importance. And yes, the governor’s office was involved in those meetings and negotiations.
Unfortunately, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has acted recklessly. She has vetoed nearly $1 billion in funding for children with autism, police officers, veterans, schools, and rural hospitals, among other important areas.
In addition to her harmful vetoes, the governor decided to employ a rarely used administrative board to make $625 million in additional destructive cuts to programs that assist those in need. This board was authorized by Michigan law nearly a hundred years ago in the event of an emergency and the need for budget changes when the Legislature was not in session.
This is the point at which the governor has overstepped the bounds of the executive branch and decency — and it’s a case of politics at its worst. Since the budget didn’t include the governor’s massive $2.5 billion tax hike on Michigan families, Whitmer has decided to punish foster children, people with disabilities and others who deserve our help — unless the Legislature agrees to the governor’s demands and raises your taxes by billions of dollars.
The voters of Michigan sent their state senators and representatives to Lansing to pass sensible laws and craft a responsible budget. The governor has decided to circumvent the normal budgetary process in contradiction to the will of the people.
By continuing to push for her 45-cent gas tax hike, she has demonstrated to Michiganders that she is out of touch with their needs. We have nearly doubled the funding for roads since I began serving in Lansing. In fact, the road budget discredited by the governor was more than a 100% increase in the last six years. How many areas of our family budgets have been increased 100% in the last six years? I would venture none.
The governor needs to hear from her constituents. It is within her ability to restore the budget funding immediately.
I encourage you to contact the governor’s office and voice your concerns about her recent choices and how they will affect your daily life.
Gov. Whitmer’s constituent services line can be reached at 517-335-7858.
Senator Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, is chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee and a member of the Agriculture Committee. He serves the residents of the 25th Senate District, representing the counties of Huron, St. Clair, and Sanilac, as well as Armada Township, Memphis, New Baltimore, Richmond and Richmond Township in Macomb County. He can be reached at 517-373-7708 or SenDLauwers@senate.michigan.gov.