What is the key to the success of any relationship?
This is a word that holds a lot of weight. Once trust is broken, it must be earned again.
When you sent me to Lansing, you put your trust in me to represent our community. That is something I think about every day, and I am always working to maintain that trust with my actions in the state Capitol.
I have been contacted by many of you over the last month regarding our state budget and the nearly $1 billion in community resources vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — along with the uncertainty it has brought to so many of you.
The current situation in Lansing is very unfortunate and it surely doesn’t do anyone any good. I wanted to take the time to explain to you what I have witnessed over the last few months, and what the governor needs to do to restore trust and move forward.
You all probably remember back during the election a promise that candidate Whitmer made to fix our roads. Clearly, when she made that promise, there was little thought put into how she could actually deliver that to the people of Michigan.
Fast forward to March of 2019: The governor introduced a massive 45-cent gas tax increase in her budget recommendation. The plan was strongly rejected by folks all over Michigan — even by many in her own party. Not a single Democrat introduced legislation for the tax increase, and I don’t blame them. Instead, my colleagues listened to the people and approved a balanced, bipartisan budget that invested record funding into our roads, our schools, and Michigan’s priorities.
Now this fall, in an attempt to gain leverage to pass her massive tax hike, the governor vetoed 147 line items in the budget — nearly $1 billion. Included in her vetoes was $375 million dedicated to road funding. She also vetoed funding for autism support, foster care, rural hospitals, college scholarships, law enforcement, local government, veterans services, programs dedicated to rural communities, and more.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I was taught to handle disagreements with others. Instead of rolling up her sleeves, having the tough conversations and coming to a comprise, she put the people of Michigan in the middle of a political mess just because she didn’t get her way. Instead of doing the right thing and owning her mistakes, she is still casting blame wherever she can send it.
To make matters worse, the governor has also used what are known as “administrative board transfers” to again twist the budget to meet her demands. This unprecedented step shifted over $600 million that was supposed to go to crucial programs like services for foster children and the disabled, and instead gave that money to state government bureaucrats and her own administration.
Six weeks after the governor’s mean-spirited cuts, Michigan schools have missed scheduled payments, sheriff departments are planning layoffs, college students are being denied scholarships and foster care programs are preparing to shut down.
Disagreeing on policy is one thing. Throwing a tantrum and using our most vulnerable residents as pawns to get your way is something else.
The governor not only lost the trust of the Legislature, she lost the trust of Michiganders far and wide.
Thankfully, we can fix this mess sooner rather than later. The governor has now agreed to pass a supplemental, or additional budget, to restore these commonsense programs and undo her vetoes. This is a good step in the right direction, but we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. While she claims that she won’t again use the state administrative board at the expense of our communities, she is unwilling to put that promise into law.
I’m not afraid to work with my friends on the opposite side of the aisle. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. But we must be able to trust that the governor will do the right thing. We need her to approve a law that ensures this is the last time she uses those powers, and the last time Michigan families will face a budget crisis because a governor didn’t get their way.
We have at least three more budgets to pass under Gov. Whitmer. It’s going to take a great deal of work, some tough conversations and compromise. More than anything, it’s going to require trust.
The governor may have lost our trust this time around. Now it’s time for her to earn it back.
Sen. Kevin Daley represents the 31st state Senate District, which includes Bay, Lapeer and Tuscola counties.