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Legislators call state budget process slow

ESCANABA — With about a month left before Michigan’s fiscal year ends, local legislators say progress in getting a 2019-2020 fiscal year budget in place has been slow.

The state Senate and House have both passed budget proposals, however, the proposed budgets did not include Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s additional $2.5 billion in funding for roads.

State Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) said the Senate and House passed proposed budgets in June, which then moved the proposals into the conference committee.

McBroom noted the proposals passed by the Senate and House included an increase in spending for both roads and schools, and also met many of the requests from the governor.

“They’re balanced budgets,” he said.

The summer months following the proposals were filled with conferences, discussions and investigations in finding additional road funding, which Whitmer is adamant on funding through a 45-cent gas tax.

State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) said there have been a lot of negotiations between the House, Senate and governor to create an overall budget they all can agree on and the governor would sign. He said although the House and Senate have compromised and remedied the inconsistencies between their budget proposals and provided the governor with seven different proposals to find additional road funding, the governor has rejected them.

“She rejected all of them because none (have) a 45-cent gas tax increase,” LaFave said.

With legislators coming back in session after a summer break, McBroom said the coming weeks will be used to determine whether or not the discussion of additional road funding be included in this year’s budget or continued past the budget deadline, which is Sept. 30.

“The governor is insisting on obtaining the additional $2.5 billion,” McBroom said. “The House and Senate are working on a way to agree on how to do that or if it’s even necessary.”

Despite the deadline drawing near, McBroom said he is optimistic in finding a compromise.

“I fully expect the budget to be completed. I don’t expect a government shutdown,” he said.

He added in his experience, shutting down the government over an additional $2.5 billion on road funding, when there is funding in place for the roads, is politically and professionally foolish.

“I don’t expect that to happen,” he said.

McBroom said he has every expectation the budget will be passed and the discussion on additional road funding will continue into the future.

The last times Michigan had a governmental shutdown were in 2007 and 2009 under Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Although McBroom is optimistic, LaFave said he would really like to remain optimistic, but feels a shutdown may occur. He said at this point in the budget process, the House and Senate are going to present a balanced and timely budget to the governor and he hopes she will sign it.

According to LaFave, the budget process has been very slow and very frustrating.

“The last thing I want is a government shutdown,” LaFave said. “But I’m not willing to vote for a 45-cent gas tax increase.”

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