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Published: Thursday, 10/1/2009

Michigan shutdown ends, lawmakers OK interim budget

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LANSING — Michigan's brief partial government shutdown is over after lawmakers voted to adopt a temporary 30-day budget.

The move early Thursday morning avoids temporary state worker layoffs and state office closures. It also delays tough decisions on more permanent spending cuts in one of the nation's most economically battered states.

The continuation budget is headed to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The move came just less than two hours after officials started a partial government shutdown. Lawmakers had failed to pass a permanent budget before the midnight Wednesday deadline.

The shutdown was a couple of hours shorter than the last one in 2007.

The story as it appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com:

LANSING - One of the nation's most economically battered states stumbled toward a partial government shutdown today as Michigan lawmakers failed to agree on a spending plan in one of the only states without a budget in place.

A deal to fill a nearly $3 billion shortfall with federal recovery dollars and more than $1 billion in cuts fell through as lawmakers decided they couldn't stomach deep cuts to schools and local services such as police and fire protection.

Michigan lawmakers also failed to finalize a temporary budget and avert the state's second shutdown since 2007.

Secretary of state offices were expected to close today and state parks prepared to ask visitors to leave if the impasse remained when state workers were supposed to report for work.

Essential services such as state police and prisons would continue running.

"We have taken steps to put a shutdown in place," said Liz Boyd, a spokesman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

But Ms. Boyd said the governor's office was waiting on a possible resolution from the Legislature to keep the government running before state offices were scheduled to open today.

Michigan already is struggling with the nation's highest unemployment rate, a shrinking auto industry, a high rate of home foreclosures, and an economy that soured long before the national recession hit. The number of people receiving food stamps and unemployment checks keeps going up, and it's the only state where the Census Bureau found poverty rates rose two years in a row.

Pennsylvania is the only other state without a budget deal enacted. Leaders there reached a tentative deal nearly two weeks ago, but have been unable to get the votes to put all the pieces in place.

Only Michigan and Alabama have fiscal years that start Oct. 1, and Alabama passed its budget.

Michigan is having a tough time finding money for everything from prisons to universities and in-school health clinics.

The lack of a budget deal left 51,000 state workers unsure as they headed to bed last night whether they'd have to show up for work today.

The Granholm administration issued temporary layoff notices yesterday and told state contractors they might not get paid.

Ms. Granholm, a Democrat, had angled to get an interim budget sent to her by last night's deadline. It would mean 30 more days for lawmakers to put a more palatable deal in place and she probably wouldn't have had to cut much spending during that period.

The interim budget originally was Senate Republicans' idea.

But as House Democrats yesterday tried to restore programs such as scholarships and library money, GOP lawmakers feared Democrats only wanted the stopgap to win more time for tax increases.

"The continuation budget was there as a safety valve in case we didn't finish," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R., Rochester). Having one in place would only give Ms. Granholm "30 more days to pressure the Legislature to adopt something she wants."



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