Aug 23, 2007

Break out the champagne Senate Republicans finally pass a budget bill

Break out the champagne, unfurl the banners and toss the confetti; the Republican-controlled Senate finally passed the first budget bills on Wednesday for the budget that starts in just 38 days on Oct. 1.

Never mind that this is the laziest and perhaps the most obstructionists Senate in Michigan history, we should be happy they passed anything. Never mind that by this time in 2006 the Senate had passed 23 budget bills, and at no time in the last 10 years had it passed fewer than 13 budget bills - in 1996 - by the end of July. To quote a famous singer/songwriter -I just can’t remember his name – “Don’t worry, be happy.”

According to subscription only Gongwer, “The Senate passed its first budget of the 2007-08 fiscal year at 5:21 p.m., Wednesday, when it approved the Department of Human Services budget, in SB 232, on a 22-16 vote.” Of course, with Republicans, politics as usual is much more important than doing the right thing, and it is no surprise we see this stuck in where it was hoped no one would notice, “In approving the budget the Senate adopted a controversial proposal privatizing much of the state's foster care and juvenile justice system.”

In perhaps the most ridiculous and ironic quote in recent memory, we have this whopper from Senate Majority “leader” Mike Bishop.

Despite the lateness in terms of time for the Senate action - approving its first budget bills months later than the chamber typically acts - Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) told reporters, "We are in the first inning of a very long game." But Mr. Bishop also acknowledged that the time was now to make progress on the budget. And he warned that lawmakers "will not allow the governor to shut down this government."

Is he serious? Any shutdown can only be laid at his feet that he has been dragging for months. Is he aware the Senate just yesterday passed the first budget bill? The Senate was done early, finishing at 10:10 p.m., but over in the House the minority Republicans again played politics by trying to score cheap, political points over getting the job done and ensured an acrimonious 17-hour session that just ended a few hours ago around 6 a.m.

For example, according to Gongwer, when the budget for the community colleges came to a vote, the Republicans tried to play politics with it by trying to insert amendments prohibiting schools from giving an in-state tuition rate for illegal immigrants or providing employee benefits to unmarried partners. That threw a monkey wrench into the process and caused a long delay and the bill had to be re-drafted. Obviously, this should have been brought up in committee or any other time, but GOP gottcha politics was more important than getting the job done. And a government shutdown can be laid at whose feet, Mr. Bishop?

As the night and morning wore on, tempers got short and Republicans began to show their true colors, violating the rules, civility and respect of the House.

According to Gongwer,

House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche (R-Novi) stormed to the rostrum and said that if Democrats wanted to fast gavel they should get someone in the chair that could do it. As Republicans continued to shout, Rep. George Cushingberry Jr. (D-Detroit) yelled out "you reap what you sow." When Ms. Jackson ruled Rep. John Pastor (R-Livonia) out of order, several Republicans told her she was out of order. DeRoche told reporters that instead of working on a balanced budget for the past month, Democrats had chosen to spend hours making sure illegal immigrants got in-state tuition and that schools gave their unmarried same-sex employees benefits.

Gee, that’s sure a problem here in Michigan. Despite the short-tempers, even shorter deadline and a 17-hour session DeRoche thought he was being funny, and he introduced another time-wasting amendment to fund the per-pupil grant at $1 trillion. I’m sure after 17 hours on the House the floor and a 22-hr day that was really funny.

With very few mainstream reporters in Lansing anymore because of newsroom constriction and newspaper consolidation there are absolutely no budget stories in the mainstream media yet. Those stories should begin leaking out soon. We haven’t even begun to see what cuts to essential programs Senate Republicans have tried to sneak by without anyone noticing, like the state police budget after screaming about cuts the governor was proposing.

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