LANSING, Mich. — Facing an Oct. 1 deadline to get a state budget in place, Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon is talking about adopting all $1.2 billion in cuts Senate Republicans passed in June.
The theory is that, in return, the Republican Senate majority would put money back into the budget for items important to Democrats, such as a college scholarship program, early childhood development and local police and firefighters.
It’s unclear if Senate Republicans would go along, since paying for those programs after the new budget takes effect would involve raising revenue, either by ending tax exemptions for certain businesses or increasing taxes or fees.
“I think it’s very high stakes and very risky,” Michigan League for Human Services President Sharon Parks said Monday of the strategy. She added that GOP lawmakers “have been completely resistant to any kind of revenue solutions” such as ones the league has suggested.
A call seeking comment was left Monday with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s spokesman, Matt Marsden.
Many of the cuts would fall on the poor and disabled, but plenty of citizens also could find they’re getting less police and fire protection or job training and less money for schools come October.
Republicans say the cuts are needed to address a $2.7 billion budget shortfall and avoid raising taxes in a bad economy. Dillon spokeswoman Abby Rubley said House Democrats are meeting Tuesday to discuss their options.
“Things could change drastically after the caucus meeting,” she added.
The Senate plan would reduce the minimum per-pupil funding in K-12 school districts from $7,316 to $7,206. The federal government would have to approve a waiver to let Michigan reduce education spending without jeopardizing millions in federal recovery act dollars.
The $110-per-student cut would mean tens of thousands of dollars less for smaller school districts and millions less for the largest districts, forcing them to make adjustments after the school year has begun.
Also feeling the pain are the elderly and people with disabilities who live independently. They’d lose $14 a month in their Supplemental Security Income payments, a drop Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm supports.
A family of three receiving $492 a month in welfare would see its payments drop by $30 a month, or 6 percent. Those families also would see an annual children’s clothing allowance drop from $84 to $43 and less money for day care providers who watch their children while they work.
House Appropriations Committee member Fred Durhal Jr., D-Detroit, said he can’t vote for some of the cuts.
He said if the budget is put “on the backs of the poor and those who cannot tend for themselves — the babies and senior citizens — I as a state representative have to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘I supported that?’ I don’t think so.”
Many of those who receive health care coverage under Medicaid would pay more for services. Doctors and other health care providers who treat Medicaid patients would see reimbursement rates cut 8 percent, causing some to quit treating as many Medicaid patients.
Michigan residents who get mental health services that aren’t covered by Medicaid will be largely out of luck, since $62 million will be cut from those programs. More people in nursing homes would be moved to community-based settings.
Less money will be available for worker training programs that now have long waiting lists as the unemployment rate hovers around 15 percent.
Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said Monday any talk of Dillon and Bishop leaving the administration out of budget talks doesn’t fly because Granholm still has to sign the bills for the budget to become law.
The governor also has the power to veto line items in budget bills. However, it’s unclear how she would use that power or her ability to veto bills she didn’t like.
“Clearly she has said she will not tolerate dangerous cuts,” Boyd said, but refused to be more specific.
The governor has said she wants to keep the Michigan Promise scholarship grant, which gives students who qualify up to $4,000 for college tuition. Senate Republicans voted to end the program, but may be open to finding a way to pay for it through a supplemental budget bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, has said Senate Democrats want to see money restored for the college scholarship, for revenue sharing to state and local governments that covers police and fire salaries and water and sewer systems, for early childhood education programs and for economic development programs.