House Speaker Bolger balks at state support for Detroit bankruptcy

Credit User: mattileo/flickr

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

This week, Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, examines the latest developments surrounding the Detroit bankruptcy case. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr spent two days in Lansing this week, trying to galvanize lawmakers to support a grand bargain to reinforce Detroit pensions while protecting the Detroit Institute of Arts. The state is being asked to contribute $350 million, but House Speaker Jase Bolger has balked at the proposal.

Ken Sikkema emphasizes that because it is an election year, Speaker Bolger will have a difficult time getting full Republican support to contribute state money to help with Detroit’s financial woes, and that in order for a deal to proceed where the state will contribute financially, it will rely on bipartisan support.

“The speaker is walking a fine line here, between driving a hard bargain to show that Republicans actually got something in the way of more accountability so that this doesn’t happen again,” Sikkema explains. “Down in Detroit, the pieces are starting to fall into place to make this happen and the last big piece is state participation. But he’s never going to get full Republican support for this, particularly in an election year, it’s going to have to be a bipartisan vote.”

Susan Demas believes that unions may need to contribute if they want the deal to go through.

“I think that at the end of the day, they may not have a choice, because the deal could fall apart otherwise," Demas says. "I think that the reason why Bolger is asking the unions themselves to contribute is because obviously retirees have been asked to take quite a few cuts themselves. That means angry seniors, and so going after the institution of unions is popular with people in the Republican Party."

Both Sikkema and Demas believe the political climate surrounding Detroit’s bankruptcy in an election year creates additional difficulties for Kevyn Orr in his quest for state support.

To listen to the full interview, click on the link above.

–Omar Saadeh, Michigan Radio Newsroom