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Budget talks: Republicans want in, Democrats say in time

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Michigan lawmakers have less than two weeks to reach a budget deal before a self-imposed deadline of the end of the month.

The Democratic-led Legislature and governor’s office have reached an agreement on spending targets for each budget area. But there’s no word yet on when House and Senate lawmakers will unveil their compromises between each chamber’s proposal.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she's confident it’ll get done on time.

“We do not want people to look at Michigan the way they sometimes look at Washington D.C., as a dysfunctional place where they can’t get the fundamentals done. Getting the budget done is important. There are a lot of wonderful things that we’re going to be able to prioritize in this budget that will inure to all communities, to all people,” Whitmer told reporters at a bill signing last week.

Meanwhile, Republicans said they’re still looking to get more involved in budget talks as July 1 approaches.

Senate Appropriations Committee Minority Vice Chair Jon Bumstead (R-North Muskegon) recently appeared alongside minority leadership at a reporter briefing.

At the time, he said his fellow Republican minority vice chairs of the appropriations subcommittees responsible for each state department budget hadn’t been updated on what their spending targets are.

“When our minority vice chairs are not engaged at the committee level, it’s really difficult to move forward with a lot of these budgets,” Bumstead said.

But Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) said Democrats have been “over-communicating” with Republicans.

“We’ll see many of their concepts and ideas reach the final project. But at the end of the day, the people did decide that they wanted to take our state in a different direction. And I think our budget should reflect the will of the people,” Anthony said.

She mentioned there’s still plenty of time to loop in Republicans on technical details.

Any final budget plan would need Republican buy-in for it to go into effect in time for the new fiscal year, which starts October 1.

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp.) said he’s still optimistic Republicans won’t need to resort to procedural tactics, such as withholding votes for immediate effect on the budget bills.

“I think working together, we can get a bipartisan, balanced budget passed that meets some of the requirements of paying down debt, investing in our roads, cleaning up our water and wastewater infrastructure, and trying to make sure it’s a sustainable, balanced budget going forward,” Nesbitt said.

This is Democrats’ first time leading the budget-making process in decades.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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