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Wed August 5, 2009
Granholm, legislators to resume talks amid budget protests
By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network
LANSING, MI – Governor Granholm will resume meeting Thursday with the legislature's Republican and Democratic leaders to try and resolve the state's $1.8 billion budget crisis. Little has changed since last week's exchange between the leaders - except that more people are going public with their complaints of the proposed budget cuts. There were two protests Wednesday at the state Capitol.
"Preserve our Michigan treasures. Save our libraries."
Several hundred people showed up at the state Capitol to protest Governor Granholm's plans to break up the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. They say it will break up valuable collections in the archive and separate them from the state's library and museum that people use to learn about Michigan's past.
A lot of people at the rally have used the library's collections to research family histories. They say the plan would make it harder to get genealogy information from other states.
Wayne Loney traveled 90 miles from Plainwell in western Michigan, to carry this sign:
"My signs says Genealogists - we research and we vote,'" Loney says.
Loney says he's mad at the legislature, but he's particularly mad at Governor Granholm, who is breaking up the department with an executive order.
"I think Governor Granholm is lucky she's facing term limits," Loney says.
After this, Loney and the other protestors marched a few blocks to the Michigan Library and Historical Center and surrounded it with green ribbon.
"Save our libraries! Save our libraries!"
Religious groups and human services advocates held their own event at the state Capitol to call on the governor and the Legislature to maintain benefits that help poor people in this recession. They say budget cuts and the state of the economy have shredded public and private charities' services to the poor.
Sharon Parks of the Michigan League for Human Services says it would be a tragedy if the governor and the legislature were to repeal the earned income tax credit that allows working poor families to keep more of the money they make at low-wage jobs.
"Everybody else gets their tax break in this system, and we finally have a tax break that benefits low and moderate income families, and I think it's outrageous that it's one of the first things we look at in terms of solving the state's budget problem," Parks says.
"We don't want to make cuts. It's not like we enjoy that," says Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. "But the fact of the matter is we have a finite number of dollars and we have to learn to deal with what we have."
Bishop knows people are angry about the proposed budget cuts. Still, he is decidedly against using new taxes on beer, soda pop, or tobacco products to raise more revenue. Those are ideas that Governor Granholm has reportedly brought up for discussion.
"We think this is the absolute wrong time to raise taxes on Michigan citizens and we think we ought to do is what the private sector has been doing and that is to contract and do so for a period of time that it takes us to recover from this," says Bishop.
It's true, there is little evidence that the public would support new taxes to retire a deficit that's $1.8 billion - almost a tenth of this year's budget.
But advocates for services such as libraries, and welfare, as well as colleges and universities, hospitals and medical care -- and the list goes on and on - all say they play a crucial role in Michigan's economy and creating jobs. And they say the cuts that are being proposed on them would prolong Michigan's economic malaise.