LANSING, Mich. — Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop said Tuesday that he and House Speaker Andy Dillon will try to balance the state budget with at least $1.2 billion in spending cuts, but that they haven’t reached a final deal.

The two leaders agree on a process to proceed, Bishop told reporters, and want lawmakers working on individual budget bills to use cuts approved by the GOP-controlled Senate as their target.

“We don’t know if those meetings are going to be fruitful,” the Rochester Republican said.

Dillon, a Democrat from Wayne County’s Redford Township, stopped short of saying there is an agreement to pass the cuts.

“We’re prepared to move very difficult budgets … but I need some comfort that I’m going to protect those values of the Democratic House and the governor,” he told reporters.

“On 11 of the 15 budgets, we’re really close. We still want to make certain we’re funding our priorities, which is Medicaid, higher education, early education, police and fire. We’re going to continue to fight for those in the House,” he said.

“If we get a process that assures us that we’re going to get our priorities taken care of, then I’ll think you’ll see this move forward,” Dillon added.

The Democrats are hoping that Senate Republicans, as part of any deal, later will agree to raise taxes or reduce tax exemptions to come up with enough money to avoid some of the GOP cuts. But Bishop said that side of the equation remains murky.

“We have no agreement on a supplemental (bill) or tax increases. We don’t have any intention of taking those up because we haven’t seen them yet,” he said.

Legislators and Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm are facing an Oct. 1 deadline to address a $2.7 billion hole in the next budget. Granholm has proposed cutting spending by $862 million and raising $685 million in new revenue by increasing certain taxes and trimming business tax credits.

Dillon, who met Tuesday morning with the Democratic governor, has said he doesn’t have enough House Democratic votes to pass all of Granholm’s revenue increases, even with a 67-43 majority.

Asked if the governor told him she would veto a budget with only cuts and not additional tax revenue, Dillon said “she’s aware of the strategy, where we’re heading and she’s keeping an open mind.”

With the clock ticking, the Legislature hopes to begin passing budget bills soon.

The proposed deal didn’t sit well with Senate Democrats, who voted against most of the Senate GOP cuts in June and whose votes will be needed if two-thirds of the Senate is to give the budget bills immediate effect so the fiscal year can start on time on Oct. 1.

If the budget contains the Senate GOP cuts, “this caucus will not stand behind that budget … regardless of any deal that is cut in the back room with the promise of some magical revenue appearing after the budget is put to bed,” Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi of Ishpeming said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

Don Wotruba, government relations director for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said MASB members are contacting lawmakers to ask them to change some of the Senate GOP K-12 education cuts.

School boards understand belt-tightening is needed because of the budget shortfall, but they object to Senate bills that specifically strip millions of dollars from early childhood development programs, schools with declining enrollments and specialty programs, he said.

All districts would lose $110 per student from the foundation grant under the Senate plan, but some districts could lose far more if they have a program the Senate eliminates, Wotruba added.

“Their current system creates a varying degree of losers,” he noted. “If you have to make cuts and we don’t like them, give us as much flexibility as you can.”

A coalition of groups that supports fewer cuts and more revenue to protect spending for education and programs for the needy warned that if House Democrats adopt the Senate GOP cuts, there could be repercussions.

“We don’t want to believe that instead of defending the core principles, values and programs the House majority was elected on, they would instead take Michigan off a cliff and into the abyss of the Senate’s budget,” Frank Houston of Common Cause said in a statement released by 26 groups that make up A Better Michigan Future.

He added that House adoption of the Senate cuts is “unacceptable in any form.”

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