Many House Democrats are expressing concerns at the increasing
possibility that they will be asked to approve budget bills largely
reflecting the $1.2 billion in cuts passed by Senate Republicans.

The House is expected to take up budgets on Wednesday, but what the
chamber will do with those budgets was unclear Monday given the
Democratic concern not only about the cuts, but whether Senate
Republicans will indeed support restoring some of the programs down the

As reported by Gongwer News Service on Friday, House Democrats and
Senate Republicans have been discussing a scenario in which the House
would pass budgets containing the Senate cuts, totaling $1.2 billion,
but the Senate would later address restoration of some cuts through a
supplemental appropriation, which could be tied to raising revenue to
pay for those programs. 

"A few of those budgets will be tough," said Rep. Barb Byrum
(D-Onondaga), the majority caucus chair, should the House in fact move
ahead with voting on the Senate budgets.

Ms. Byrum said members understand cuts and reforms need to take place to
close the $2.8 billion combined general fund and School Aid Fund
deficit, but there are certain programs the caucus wants to keep intact.

Monday, the possibility of the scenario going from the discussion phase
to action appeared to increase.

Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop
(R-Rochester), said the House offered a proposal that Senate Republicans
would review Monday evening.

"The House has made a strong proposal that is moving the process
forward," he said. "It is a budget proposal that reflects the need to
reduce government spending. It's more in keeping with the Senate desire
to balance the budget through reductions." 

As to where the negotiations stand, Mr. Marsden said, "There are still
some discussions and negotiations that need to go on between the speaker
and Senate majority leader. It would be premature to say there's a deal
in place, but we certainly have moved the process forward by receiving a
new proposal from the House today."

A spokesperson for Mr. Dillon did not return messages seeking comment on
this latest development. 

Liz Boyd, Governor Jennifer Granholm
<> 's
press secretary, said the administration is "aware of various scenarios"
in budget talks. Ms. Granholm has proposed raising $684 million in
revenues through tax increases and the elimination of tax exemptions
while also cutting $862 million in spending.

"Governor Granholm has made clear that she will not tolerate dangerous
cuts that harm citizens or our ability to grow the economy and create
jobs," she said.

Of the situation where Mr. Bishop and Mr. Dillon appear to be
negotiating without Ms. Granholm, and the perception that they have cut
Ms. Granholm out of the process, Ms. Boyd said, "Because the governor
actually signs bills, she cannot by definition be cut out of the

Ms. Boyd said she would not speculate on the possibility of Ms. Granholm
signing or vetoing a budget that came to her desk largely reflecting
what Senate Republicans passed.

"We're working hard to ensure that a budget is in place by October," she

Rep. Richard Hammel
(D-Flushing), second ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee,
said he could not confirm what approach the House will take, but he said
the chamber will be moving on budgets this week.

He said most of the Democratic members were briefed on the situation and
some may be frustrated with the approach, but that's part of having a
67-member caucus.

"The best thing we can do is find an approach that works," he said.

It's expected that Appropriation members will start convening in budget
workgroups on Tuesday, but that official conference committees will not
be held that day.

Speaking on background, several House Democrats expressed concern not
only for cutting certain programs, but for working out the timing of
voting on those cuts and having a supplemental in place. 

One Democrat said the scenario of relying on some taxes to backfill the
cuts right before Republicans head to Mackinac Island for their biennial
leadership conference would be tricky. 

And it appeared whatever the House does will likely be influenced by the
Democratic Caucus' reaction to this proposed scenario on Tuesday. 

Rep. Joan Bauer
(D-Lansing), who heads the higher education budget subcommittee, said
she will continue to advocate for keeping the Promise Grant intact and
hopes Senate members will come to an agreement on that point. 

"I think many of my colleagues share my views with keeping our promise
this year," she said. 

Assurances that the Senate would indeed vote for revenues to restore a
cut to the Promise Grant would be critical, she said, before the House

But it appears that passing some of the appropriations where both
chambers are close with the numbers will not receive too much

The only budget on which the House has yet to act is the Department of
State Police (SB 253
d=1&SR=1&Session=2009&BillType=SB&BillNum=253> ). Chair Rep. Richard
said the House version of that budget is ready to be substituted, but he
has not been instructed by Speaker Andy Dillon
(D-Redford Twp.) to prepare for a vote this week. 

If the House agrees to bills reflecting Senate Republican budgets,
Senate Democrats could scuttle the plan by rejecting immediate effect on
the budget bills. Twenty-five votes are needed to obtain the two-thirds
majority to grant immediate effect, meaning at least four Democrats
would have to join all 21 Republicans.

Without immediate effect, the bill would not take effect until late
March 2010, essentially leaving the state without a budget in place for
the first half of the fiscal year.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi
(D-Ishpeming) said he and the Senate Democratic caucus have made no
decision about an immediate effect strategy at this point, but they
remain opposed to the cuts Senate Republicans passed, such as those in
revenue sharing, higher education, Medicaid and human services.

"Doing every budget at the Senate Republican level is not something I'm
comfortable with," he said. "We'll continue to fight and vote for the
priorities we expressed back in June."

Asked about the risk of relying on Senate Republicans to later pass
revenue and spending increases in the new fiscal year, Mr. Prusi said,
"That's where I'm not as comfortable as the speaker."

Sen. Gretchen Whitmer
(D-East Lansing) said the development is surprising, to have the
Democratic-led House potentially approve the Senate Republican budget
with deep cuts in Democratic priorities. Such an approach assumes Senate
Republicans would later agree to raise revenue to restore some spending.

"I don't know why any Democrats would vote yes," she said. "At this
juncture, I can't imagine supporting anything like that. You would be
relying on action from the majority leader that he has not shown any
propensity to engage in, in the past. Words fail me."