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Tue October 13, 2009
Governor threatens line-item veto to fund budget priorities
By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network
Lansing, MI – Governor Granholm says if the Legislature won't fund her budget priorities, she will use line-item vetoes to free more money for local governments, nursing homes, and college scholarships. She is trying to put pressure on lawmakers to agree to new revenue as a new budget deadline draws near. The Legislature is debating budget proposals this week. At the same time, people affected by the political gridlock in Lansing are growing frustrated with the uncertainty.
AUDIO: Jason Morgan and a handful of other students at Northern Michigan University in Marquette are trying to convince their classmates that the battle over the Michigan Promise scholarship is not over.
"A lot of students think that the scholarship is already dead, that they've already lost this money," Morgan says.
Morgan and his friends are registering fellow students to vote. They are trying to get students to call or e-mail their hometown lawmakers urging support for the Promise scholarship as Democrats battle Republicans over revenue 400 miles away at the state Capitol.
"We really want to push one final effort to do everything that we can do for the scholarship because it's so important," says Morgan. "I mean, students are losing $500 for this current semester. I mean, halfway through the semester, students are hearing they're losing $500, and $4,000 altogether. I mean, I think it's just unacceptable for the state to be doing that to students."
"It is my intention to fight for those priorities in the budget."
Governor Granholm also wants lawmakers to go back and restore the scholarship, as well as big cuts to Medicaid and local governments. She will accept reductions to school aid, but that budget is still not fully funded.
"Let me be very clear - the budget is not done," Granholm says.
The governor just issued her first line item vetoes, and she says a lot more are on the way. The governor says if the Legislature won't come up with the money for her priorities, she will find it by cutting spending she does not consider as important.
"If the priorities for Michigan are not funded in this budget, then we clearly don't have enough money to fund all of the things that are in this budget, and so there will be some things that have to come out," says Granholm.
But the governor cannot simply veto budget lines and then plug that money in wherever she wants. She has limited authority to move money around within departments and agencies. If she tries to go too far, though, that could set up a battle pitting her constitutional authority to run the executive branch against the legislature's authority to authorize spending.
"She ought not be writing checks that she can't cash."
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop says he's trying to protect a budget deal that does not raise taxes or add revenue. So he is refusing to send the governor half a dozen budget bills that are ready for her to sign or veto. The tactic is unusual, but Bishop says it's necessary.
"I think it's unproductive for the Senate to send budgets to the governor if she is going to wholesale veto because she doesn't like the process," Bishop says.
That's not how Granholm sees it.
"It is now the governor's turn to act by the constitution," Granholm says. "It's my turn and I'm asking him to send the bills to me so we can complete the budget for this year."
And time to do that is running short. The state's been operating under a temporary budget since its new fiscal year began October first. That expires at the end of the month.