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Whitmer: No progress on budget, comments no help

LANSING (AP) — No progress was made toward resolving a monthslong budget impasse over the Legislature’s multi-week break, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday, adding that a top Republican lawmaker’s criticism of her could impede efforts to find common ground.

Whitmer spoke for the first time about the incident that became public when she was on a trade trip to Israel. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, while speaking to a GOP group at Hillsdale College, used an obscenity while describing Whitmer and Democratic lawmakers as “crazy.”

Whitmer said Shirkey had apologized in a text message.

“It mirrors the ugly rhetoric that we’re seeing in Washington, D.C.,” she told reporters after hosting a health care event in Lansing a day before the GOP-led Legislature was to return from a deer hunting and Thanksgiving break. “I ran against that. I’m not going to return in kind.”

Whitmer said she and Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering spoke over the break but didn’t dive into details of the budget stalemate.

She vetoed an unprecedented $947 million in funding on Sept. 30 and used a board to unliterally transfer an additional $625 million after being sent a spending plan without her input following a breakdown in road-funding talks. Whitmer and legislators want to reverse some vetoes, which have led to layoffs and other cuts, but are at odds over the GOP’s push to curtail the State Administrative Board’s power.

Whitmer said she and Chatfield had a “pretty good deal” in November, before the House broke for three weeks and the Senate for two, and it would be nice if “the Senate leadership would get serious about moving forward.”

“I’m sad to see the kind of rhetoric that’s been used. I think that does a disservice to our ability to find some common ground,” she said. “People expect us to use our platforms and use our positions to solve problems and to speak to the things that we can find common ground on. I’m hopeful we can get there, but it’s challenging.”

Shirkey has said Whitmer should agree to sign a separate bill that would give legislators a say in the governor’s ability to move money allocated by lawmakers.

“The Senate was serious when it passed a budget with bipartisan support in September,” his spokeswoman, Amber McCann, said Monday. “The choices the governor made with her veto pen have had the most serious consequences.”

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