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Granholm may veto some programs to keep others

October 13, 2009
The Mining Journal

LANSING (AP) - Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Monday she may take money from programs she doesn't like to pay for college scholarships and local police and fire protection.

But she can't veto any programs until she get the bills on her desk. And GOP Senate Majority Leader Mark Bishop has been holding onto six bills lawmakers passed nearly two weeks ago as part of a package that would balance the state budget without tax increases.

''What we are trying to do is to protect that from being destroyed by the veto and basically, in vetoing, trying to force us to increase taxes,'' Bishop spokesman Matt Marsden said.

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The Democratic governor has said repeatedly that she's against eliminating the Michigan Promise Grant college scholarships. She also wants to put more money into health care for the needy, restore some of the money cut from local governments for services such as police and fire protection and make sure there's enough money for K-12 schools.

''Those bills have cuts that are far too deep,'' she told reporters. ''I'm going to veto the things that I don't think are as important as the four priorities that I've identified.''

To avoid a government shutdown, Granholm must have the bills and sign them by Oct. 31, when an interim budget affecting most state departments expires. State government shut down briefly after lawmakers missed an Oct. 1 deadline to balance the budget and erase a $2.8 billion deficit. Lawmakers have passed 15 permanent budget bills, but have sent her only nine.

Granholm said holding onto the six bills long enough to force a shutdown would be ''foolish'' and a ''terrible strategy'' on Senate Republicans' part.

She wouldn't say Monday what she might veto or how she might move money around when she gets the bills.

She might be able to use the State Administrative Board, which has been around since 1921 and is allowed to transfer funds within a department's budget.

''The governor has those options. I didn't specifically say what I would do,'' Granholm said.

The board consists of the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, the state treasurer, the attorney general, the director of the state transportation department, and the superintendent of public instruction.

Granholm appoints the treasurer, superintendent and transportation director. The secretary of state and attorney general are elected; both posts currently are held by Republicans.

Granholm said she understands Bishop's desire to pass a budget without raising taxes, but that the types of increases she wants - such as charging bars that want to stay open until 4 a.m. a higher licensing fee or raising taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes - are targeted and would help save crucial programs.

''We're in the middle of an economic crisis. And if we as a state don't focus on sending kids to college and educating our kids, then we have completely abdicated our responsibility to reshape this economy,'' she said.

Marsden said the Promise Grant college scholarship, which goes to around 96,000 students, ''is not something that fell under the definition of an essential government service.''

While the state might look at renewing the scholarship at some point, no taxes should be raised to do that, he added.

''If we continue to backfill with the governor's tax increases, we are never going to fix the structural problem,'' Marsden said. ''We're not going to cave to her demands that we send something over without assurances that we're not going to be able to protect what we believe is important.''

Bishop is holding onto bills that cover energy, labor and economic growth, general government, human services, state police, community health and higher education.

On Monday, Granholm signed budget bills for the departments of education, corrections and transportation.

She already has signed bills for community colleges, the judiciary, and military and veterans affairs, and is looking over budgets for agriculture, natural resources and environmental quality and K-12 schools.

AP-CS-10-13-09 0735EDT



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