Governor Jennifer Granholm and House Speaker Andy Dillon, after a tough 24 hours in which the two top Democrats in Lansing exchanged sharp jabs over the budget, met Thursday to patch up their differences.
Meanwhile, there were some signs of movement in the House with Rep. George Cushingberry (D-Detroit), the Appropriations Committee chair, formally unveiling his budget plan, first reported Tuesday by Gongwer News Service.
He also introduced four shell bills that could be used as vehicle legislation to raise the sales, use, income or tobacco taxes.
Still, at this point, Mr. Cushingberry's budget plan appears to be his own and has yet to be embraced by Mr. Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) or the House Democratic caucus.
In announcing his proposal, Mr. Cushingberry said, "Hopefully it will trigger some of my friends into action."
Thursday's scheduled meeting of Ms. Granholm and the top legislative leadership from both parties was canceled. The Quadrant and the governor are scheduled to meet Friday, where four leaders from the business and political worlds to discuss reform ideas will again join them.
Ms. Granholm and Mr. Dillon met two days after Mr. Dillon accused Ms. Granholm of "showboating" when she unveiled her budget plan and said she hoped the House would begin acting on budget bills Wednesday. On Wednesday, Lt. Governor John Cherry Jr. called it "disingenuous" of Mr. Dillon to feign surprise at Ms. Granholm's plan and demanded that House Democrats offer a budget plan of their own.
Thursday, the rhetoric cooled, but the positions seemed firm.
"I'm hopeful that there's some meeting of the minds," Mr. Cherry said in the early afternoon. "What a compromise is, is finding a common path that people can walk and support, and to do that you've got to have an expression of priority. And it's best done by laying a concrete proposal on the table. It doesn't have to flush out every dime and every nickel, but it needs to say this is what's important to us, this is what we think we can do."
But during a taping of Michigan Public Television's "Off the Record," Mr. Dillon reiterated that House Democrats would not likely present their own budget proposal at this point.
"We don't need a different plan, we need a solution," he said.
Granholm press secretary Liz Boyd did not return messages seeking comment about the governor's meeting with Mr. Dillon.
Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), said Mr. Bishop and Mr. Dillon spoke twice Thursday, and Mr. Bishop continues to insist that the House pass a plan like the Senate did in June.
"It's up to the speaker to pull together what he needs to pull together and start moving bills over here," he said. "Chart a course, execute it and send it over to the Senate."
There was some talk that the House is preparing a contingency plan, but that was only if negotiations between leadership and the governor broke down.
Mr. Dillon said he is optimistic about the chances of getting the budget done before the October 1 deadline, saying he didn't expect all-night sessions like there were in 2007 and that conference committees should start meeting next week.
The House is slated to meet at 10 a.m. each day next week, save Monday, which is earlier than the usual session time.
However, Mr. Dillon has yet to name conference committee members to the nine budgets to which the Senate has named conferees.
The inability of Ms. Granholm and the Legislature to strike a deal on the 2009-10 fiscal year budget continues to trigger worry of a possible state government shutdown. Thursday, a coalition of groups called the Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project announced it has restarted its "Countdown to Chaos" clock at www.countdowntochaos.org.