The State of Michigan's October 1 deadline to enact a new budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year is now behind us. Nonetheless, at press time, we still do not have a budget plan in place. After a week's worth of marathon sessions held by the Michigan Senate and the House of Representatives that often ran from the morning until late in the evening, lawmakers and the governor's office failed to reach consensus on a deal to address the $2.8 billion budget deficit. Votes on difficult issues, from a 3 percent cut in school aid funding to cuts in revenue sharing dollars for local units of government stalled on multiple occasions. The House of Representatives even voted to restore certain cuts without passing a plan to raise the corresponding new revenue as a way to garner adequate support. The end result was the passing of a continuation budget that funds state government, at reduced levels, through the end of October.
While it is disappointing that a full year's budget was not passed, there are still positive ideas on the table. In September, a deal struck between Senate Majority leader Mike Bishop(R-Rochester) and Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp) to fix the hole in the budget with cuts, not taxes, was refreshing news coming out of Lansing. The deal included a reduction in overall general fund spending from $9.71 billion to $7.93 billion and minimized its reliance on one-time funding from federal stimulus dollars.
Legislators should accept the necessity of the difficult decision to pare back the size of state government now, lest we be doomed to the chaos that comes with the yearly reprisal of budget...