May 8, 2009
Senate Republicans put office budgets ahead of public safety
LANSING – Senate Republicans had an opportunity to save some the jobs of some of the 80 Michigan state Troopers who will be laid off because of an Executive Order approved by the Senate and House Appropriations Committees earlier this week that cut $350 million front the current state budget that only has five months left, but they chose to keep the extra $3.5 million for themselves.
The Democrats tried to discharge Senate Resolution 15, sponsored by Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, from committee for a second time Thursday, but it was again defeated along party lines, 21-16. The resolution would set the office budgets the same for both Republicans and Democrats. Under the current situation, GOP Senate offices have five full-time staffers, but Democrats only have three. Over in the Democratic controlled House, each office has the same amount of staffers; two in each office, regardless of party. The money saved would go to the State Police Budget.
“Certainly, you Republicans can serve and operate your office budgets on the same amount in which we Democrats serve our constituents,” Whitmer said. “These are challenging times, and the Senate should show some leadership and step up on behalf of public safety in the state of Michigan.”
Why are constituents who live in the 21 Michigan Senate Districts represented by Republicans deserve better service than the 16 – currently – districts represented by Democrats? That was the simple question asked by Senate Minority Leader Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit.
“I see no reason why the Senator from Kentwood should have more money to represent his constituents as the Senator from the City of Detroit,” Thomas said. “That just doesn’t make sense. Are my constituents any different? I don’t think so.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, by far the most bombastic and partisan lawmaker in Lansing, made the claim that the GOP needed the two extra employers because the GOP is in the majority, and they are committee chairs. He never explained why the Democrats who control the House have the same amount of staffers as the minority Republicans. Even if the disparity was three staffers to four instead of five, there would be enough money to keep at least 21 troopers.
He then tried the ridiculous tack that the House Democrats have bigger office budgets, and that the Senate Democrats – and Whitmer - should also go to Washington, D.C. and tell them what to do.
“Well, I would suggest that maybe she walk across the rotunda and tell the Speaker of the House to equalize everyone’s budget over there,” Cropsey said. “I would suggest that maybe she go to Washington, D.C., where the Democrats have total dictatorial powers and suggest to them that maybe they ought to start playing fair and not do partisanship.”
But Thomas pointed out that even if the budgets in the House were equal like they were in 2006 when Democrats took control of the House, it would only saved $200,000 instead of $3.5 million.
“Well, the House already has acted, and the disparity that exists there is about $200,000 for 110 members, and out of our 37 members, $3.5 million,” Thomas said. “That, to me, sounds outrageous. It sounds like crocodile tears being cried on the other side.”
That was a view held by the Michigan State Troopers Association (MSPTA).
"The Troopers Association has tremendous concerns regarding the effect these layoffs will have on all of public safety," said MSPTA Vice President Christopher Luty, according to subscription only MIRS. "We appreciate that our lawmakers are willing to consider any measure that will keep our troopers working."
To avoid further embarrassment, the Senate Republicans used their majority to push a measure that will not allow the Resolution to be taken up until Dec. 31. It will remain in the Committee on Government Operations and Reform, where bills go to die because it rarely meets.
The executive order approved Tuesday was the result of the Governor working with the legislative leaders in the House and Senate. The cuts include across the board cuts to every state department of at least 4 percent, cutting more than 200 state jobs, requiring at least six unpaid furlough days by state workers and cuts to local governments of more than $41 million.