GOP leaders bypass Whitmer on ‘20 budget
LANSING — Republican legislative leaders agreed to a budget framework Thursday and intend to begin passing spending bills next week despite not having a deal with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Whitmer has vowed to veto any plan that does not include a “real fix” to significantly boost spending on roads and public education. But with the Oct. 1 budget deadline approaching and no consensus on road funding nearly six months after Whitmer proposed a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike, the GOP-led Legislature is moving forward — setting the stage for a showdown.
Target spending levels were sent Thursday to the chairs of budget subcommittees, said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake. The figures were not made public.
Some House-Senate conference panels are expected to start voting next week, once details are hashed out. Republican leaders had said last week that they would pivot toward finalizing the budget , saying it does not need to be linked with the road-funding debate.
The first-year governor’s gas tax increase is the linchpin of her budget plan, however. It would guarantee $2.5 billion in additional yearly revenue for roads and bridges by October 2020 and halt the eventual diversion of $600 million a year in general funds to the transportation budget — freeing up money for education.
It was not immediately known how much more the GOP’s blueprint would spend on roads in the coming fiscal year, but it is expected to be much less than what Whitmer wants as part of a long-term solution. She has said the roads will deteriorate further without a multibillion-dollar influx of new revenue in a state that that ranks second to last nationally in per-capita road spending and has accused Republicans of not proposing viable alternatives to her proposal.
A Whitmer spokeswoman had no immediate comment Thursday night. But Whitmer said earlier this week that the GOP-led Legislature, which is now back in session, should not have adjourned for much of the summer with the budget left unresolved.
“Now we’re in a tough situation. I’m doing everything I can to avoid a shutdown” of government on Oct. 1, she said. “I’m going to continue to be at the table ready to negotiate and avoid this.”
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, last week accused Whitmer of “holding the budget process hostage because of our unwillingness to tax every driver in the state.”
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