Politics
4:48 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Budget protests continue in Lansing

UPDATE:  A growing number of angry labor-movement supporters are showing up at the state Capitol to protest Republican proposals to tax pensions and limit union control.  A drum circle played on the Capitol lawn, surrounded by thousands of protesters with signs, a 15-foot inflated eagle, and flapping American and U-A-W flags.

There were big, hulking men in hardhats, businesspeople in suits, and young parents pushing strollers.   

“You know, Snyder, congratulations; you’ve riled the middle class, you’ve riled the middle-of-the-road people.” said Gretchen Whitmer – no, not the Democratic Senate Minority Leader, but a retired school teacher from Cadillac with the same name. She says she’s not normally one to join rallies or protests, but she is furious that schools will be expected to take huge budget cuts under Governor Rick Snyder’s plan.

There were many reasons why people showed up at the Capitol, but they were all angry with what they view as Republican dissolution of the middle class.   David Hecker is president of Michigan’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers union. He says Governor Rick Snyder and Republicans in the Legislature are pursuing policies aimed at the union movement and working families. 

“We pick up your trash, we build buildings, we stock the shelves, we care for the sick and elderly. We are Michigan....and we know, we’re smart, we know that Michigan is in a financial crisis.”

Bob King is president of the United Auto Workers union. He says many people who voted for Governor Rick Snyder were deceived.  

"He ran saying he wasn’t going to be partisan. He ran saying he would try to pull people together. All he’s trying to do is take more money out of the middle class and give it to the wealthiest. It’s what Republicans are doing across this country, trying to destroy the middle class, it’s wrong. He’s doing it all the wrong way.”  

Governor Snyder says he respects the views of people protesting against his budget proposals. Many people have crowded the Capitol lawn this week to stand against Snyder’s plan to tax pensions. The governor says he understands their frustration, but he says a tax on pensions – done the right way – is only fair. 

“We’re really looking at the issue for people to have a pension of how to address it at the lower income levels, as we would any citizen. So it’s really people with higher incomes that would be subject to the tax, and it’s an equity issue in many respects. We have an aging population, and we can’t shift this burden on our young people.”

   Snyder spoke with a group of business leaders at Jackson National Life Insurance in Okemos this morning.  He says it’s important to create an attractive business atmosphere in Michigan to keep young people interested in working and living in the state.

 

UPDATE: The Detroit News is reporting that over 3,000 protesters demonstrated in Lansing today against Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal:

At least 3,000 demonstrators have flooded the state Capitol — and more continue to arrive by the minute — for the biggest and rowdiest protest yet against Gov. Rick Snyder's plans to tax pensions and weaken collective bargaining rights.

The crowd chanted "We are democracy!" and "It's not right!" and touted protest signs. An impromptu bongo corps and band led protesters in patriotic songs, and an enormous inflated Eagle swayed in the wind.

"It's the Republican reverse Robin Hood — steal from the poor and the working class and give it to the rich and wealthy," United Auto Workers President Bob King shouted from a loudspeaker on the Capitol steps. The crowd roared.

Rallies against Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal continued today at the Capitol in Lansing. The Detroit Free Press reports:

Hundreds of people are already gathered outside the Capitol in Lansing this morning, waiting for a union-sponsored rally against Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget.

Josh Windy, 31, of the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 85 of Saginaw was beginning to grill about 10,000 hot dogs for the hungry crowd.

“This is not about unions. It’s about working people,” he said. “He’s giving money to businesses and taking money from working people.”

Snyder, at an unrelated news conference in Okemos this morning, said of the protest, "It’s part of the democratic process. I just hope people will always be respectful and then step back and look at the big picture.”

“The initial reaction when people face change … is a negative one. But I hope they step back and say what’s in the best interest of all of us.”

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder says he understands the protesters' frustration, but says that a tax on pensions – done the right way – is only fair.

"We’re really looking at the issue for people to have a pension of how to address it at the lower income levels, as we would any citizen. So it’s really people with higher incomes that would be subject to the tax, and it’s an equity issue in many respects. We have an aging population, and we can’t shift this burden on our young people.”

If you'd like to check out the view from inside the Capitol building, MichaelMoore.com has a live feed of the protests all day, and there's another at ustream.tv.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio News