The state Legislature’s nearly year-round rumble with Michigan’s budget crisis has overshadowed efforts to do much of anything else.
Most legislation concerning energy, the environment, health care and other issues not immediately related to the state budget or taxes has been stalled more than 10 months, since little time has been left to focus on such matters.
Lawmakers could begin moving faster on some non-budget issues after they return from what could be a two-week break this month. But it’s unlikely any major policy changes will be addressed until December.
“The state budget should be their No. 1 priority, so setting that straight is good,” says James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council.
“But it’s unfortunate it’s taken this long.”
Several Democratic and Republican lawmakers from both chambers have been absorbed in the state budget and related financial issues, brought on in part by Michigan’s struggling economy and what some consider an out-of-whack tax structure.
It’s been one of the toughest, longest and messiest budget debates in modern Michigan history.
The new Legislature convened in January knowing the budget would consume the early part of the session.
But the budget problem grew almost weekly, ballooning to a projected $1.75 billion deficit by summer.
Michigan budget debates are typically wrapped up by July or August, well in advance of fiscal years that start in October.
But as autumn slowly turns to winter, lawmakers still haven’t finished the job for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
An unprecedented four-hour government shutdown highlighted the budget crisis in the early hours of Oct. 1.
A 30-day emergency extension was passed to delay the start of the new budget year to Nov. 1.