Sep 29, 2007

Senate fails to reach budget compromise 24 hours before a government shutdown

LANSING –The Senate adjourned shortly before midnight on Saturday, apparently no closer to a budget solution that will stop a government shutdown in some 24 hours.

The Senate convened at noon today, but most of the day was spent at ease of the call of the chair as the Republicans and the Democrats spent the majority of the day in closed-door caucuses or in face-to-face negotiations. Despite rumors of an impending deal that included a boost in the state income tax rate and a sales tax on some discretionary luxury items that will keep the state open it never became a reality.

The Senate finally went into open session to conduct public business at 8:35 p.m., and one of the first actions was that Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Troy, appointed Sens. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland and Michael Prusi, D-Ishpeming to the conference committee for House Bill 5198. The bill was passed with a bipartisan vote of 24-13 late Friday night, and it would allow a sales tax on some services in the state to go forward. The committee would work with three members of the House to decide what services would see a sales tax and how much.

The Senate then approved Senate Bill 799 by a vote of 36-1 that would transfer $20 million from the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps (MCCC) Endowment Fund to the General Fund.

According to the analysis of the bill from the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, the bill would amend the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps Act transfer the $20 million from the balance of the MCCC Endowment Fund to the General Fund, for the fiscal year that ended Sunday. This amount is the entire balance of the permanent investment of the Fund.

Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps (MCCC) is a special program that provides a variety of service opportunities for young adults age 18-25 to conduct conservation and recreation projects in state parks for a one-year term of employment at minimum wage to help prepare them for future employment by enhancing on-the-job skills, offering many training opportunities and providing hands-on work experience. The crews work to protect some of the most significant and threatened natural resources in the state, including marshes, fens, oak barrens and lakeplain prairies.

The transfer would entirely eliminate the program next year. The funds from the MCCC Endowment Fund are used as a match for a Federal Wildlife Grant, which would be in jeopardy with the elimination of the program.

Following that brief action, the Senate quickly went back to standby mode at 8:45 p.m. until it adjourned shortly before midnight. The Senate’s last chance to avoid a government shutdown will occur at 2 p.m. Sunday when it tries again to reach a deal on a budget to present to the Governor.

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