budget

Governor's office

Over the last decade, factories have closed.  People have lost their jobs. Some have had their hours cut.  Some have had their wages cut.  It’s been hard for many Michigan families. 

With so many people hurting, it’s easy to look around and get a little resentful when people who work for the government still have their jobs. 

More than 53,000 state workers --from the people who sweep the floors in the capitol to lawyers in the Attorney General’s office to engineers in the Department of Transportation-- still seem to be doing okay.

Tracy O / Flickr

Lately, you've probably heard or read a Michigan Radio story that includes this number: 1,800,000,000. In case you haven't had your morning coffee yet... that's 1.8 billion. Economic forecasters predict Michigan's budget, for the fiscal year that begins October 1st, is $1.8 billion in the red.

However, later today, that figure could change. That's because economists are meeting today for what's called a "revenue estimating conference" at the state Capitol. The economists will come up with an estimate of just how much money the state can expect to receive through the next fiscal year. As the state's website explains:

The Revenue Estimating Conference held each January is a major part of the budget process. During the conference, national and state economic indicators are used to formulate an accurate prediction of revenue available for appropriation in the upcoming fiscal year. This conference first convened in 1992, pursuant to Act No. 72 of the Public Acts of 1991. The principal participants in the conference are the State Budget Director and the Directors of the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies or their respective designees. Other participants may include the Governor and senior officials from the Department of Treasury.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder met yesterday with the presidents of the state's universities.  They told the governor they are ready to help improve Michigan's economy. The Associated Press reports:

...Snyder says universities likely will have to sacrifice in the short run, but he wants to invest more in higher education when times get better. Michigan Technological University President Glen Mroz said in a statement that the meeting set a positive tone for the relationship between universities and the new Snyder administration.

Reports say Snyder did not give any specific details on what he plans to do for universities in the state's next budget. Michigan faces a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The start of the new year often brings in a lot of talk of good will. For those in politics, it's talk of bipartisanship.

In Michigan, that spirit is likely to dissolve quickly as the state faces a $1.8 billion budget deficit in the next fiscal year (the state's next fiscal year will start October 1st, 2011).

Peter Luke on MLive.com highlights the discussion beginning to take shape among the leaders in the state legislature.

Republicans pretty much control everything in Lansing now, and the first item they say they plan to cut are salaries and benefits for state employees.

Jase Bolger, the new Speaker in the State House of Representatives, said state employee benefits are definitely on the table if the state is going to close the enormous budget deficit gap:

"There are significant dollars that need to be saved through our compensation models, not just salaries, but the entire compensation."

In his recent piece on the looming budget deficit, Michigan Radio's Lester Graham points out that slashing state employee salaries and benefits only gets them a small percentage of their overall $1.8 billion dollar goal.

Kalamazoo City Commission
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo has a new balanced budget in place…with no layoffs, tax increases or cuts to city services. City commissioners unanimously approved the 2011 budget plan Monday night.

Lani Chisnell / Michigan Radio

The state budget amounts to $47-billion.  There’s a predicted shortfall of $1.6-billion in the upcoming fiscal year budget.  But, maybe $1.6-billion out of $47-billion isn't that bad.  Just cut everything by three-and-a-half percent and, Voila!  Everything’s fixed.

It's Wednesday, the day we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. On tap for today: Michigan gets hit hard by bad news from the census and Governor-elect Rick Snyder says he wants a 2-year budget plan for the state.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The City of Lansing is facing a potential $15 million budget deficit.   City Finance Director Jerry Ambrose says there is a growing chasm between Lansing’s projected spending needs fiscal year 2012 and the city’s projected revenue. FY2012 begins June 30th, 2011.  Ambrose says the city expects to spend $118 million next year delivering city services, but city revenues are only expected to reach $103 million. Ambrose says in a written statement:

The Pure Michigan advertising campaign is getting the money it needs.   Governor Granholm today signed the legislation authorizing funds to pay for ads promoting Michigan tourism.

The Associated Press reports: 

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has as expected signed a bill that will help pay for the Pure Michigan tourism advertising campaign. The bill that Granholm announced signing Wednesday transfers $10 million to the campaign from the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund.  The addition gives Pure Michigan more than $15 million for the current fiscal and will provide enough cash to pay for a winter and spring tourism campaign. The program would have been canceled if the extra money had not been approved. Pure Michigan advocates still are pushing to raise the annual budget for the program to about $30 million.

Steve Chrypinski / Michigan Radio

The incoming governor and new leaders of the legislature know they have a lot of work ahead of them.  The State of Michigan’s finances are a mess.  After a decade of cuts to education, prisons, arts, tourism and everything else, it appears more cuts are coming.  Lester Graham with Michigan Watch reports it’s not clear what the new government leaders are going to do, but they say it begins with some tough decisions about the budget.

Salt trucks
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Counties all over Michigan are gearing up for another winter plowing season with higher costs and fewer resources.

Wayne County has outfitted about 20 trucks with new side plows that allow crews to make fewer passes to clear snow-covered roads.

Michael Rogers is the Roads Division director for Wayne County. During a demonstration of the equipment, he pointed out an innovation that will save on salt costs. The county has rigged up its trucks to wet the salt as it’s being spread on the roadway.  

You see the salt doesn’t necessarily make it all the way over here, to us. And that’s what you want. You want the salt to get on its intended target, and that’s what it’s doing. Because before the salt would’ve been ten feet back there, and that’s a waste of our resource.

Ten years ago, Wayne County had 726 people working for the Roads Division during the winter months. This year it has a little more than 330.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder named John Nixon as his new administration's budget director on Monday.  Nixon currently holds that position in Utah.

In an interview this morning on Michigan Radio, political analyst Jack Lessenberry said he thinks the pick shows that Snyder is willing to look outside of the box. Lessenberry said:

It shows that [Snyder] is certainly willing to... go outside the box and outside the state to find someone with a fresh approach to look at the all-important state budget problem. This is something that people had urged Governor Granholm to do when she first came in and which didn't happen.

Lessenberry went on to say that highly-regarded economist Charles Ballard often references Utah when discussing how Michigan could turn around its budget problems. Now, with the former head of Utah's Office of Planning and Budget becoming Snyder's budget director, Lessenberry said he is curious to see what lessons Michigan can learn. "Utah managed to balance its budget with a higher income tax," said Lessenberry, "It'll be interesting to see if that's part of the mix."

Flint firefighters are voting on a new contract and the outcome is far from certain.    The head of the city’s firefighters union says its chances are 50-50.

 Flint firefighters are being asked to approve a new contract that will force firemen to increase contributions to their retirement plan and force them to pay more for health insurance.

“Basically the city doesn’t give us anything.  They’re basically just taking away.," says Raul Garcia, the president of the Flint Firefighters Union,  "They made us no kinds of offers or incentives for people to leave.” 

Flint police officers will not be getting layoff notices this week after all. 

 50 city workers are expected to lose their jobs to help ease the city’s budget crisis.

 But Flint mayor Dayne Walling says there will be no layoff notices sent to city police officers or firefighters this week.   He says layoff notices will be sent to Flint public safety employees after the holiday weekend, though contract talks with the city’s police officers continue.  

Tight budgets are forcing local governments across the state to do more with less. That's easier said than done - even in traditionally fiscally conservative areas. Straight ticket republican voters in Ottawa County outnumbered their democratic counterparts 4 to 1 in the last election. Many self-described-fiscal-conservatives spoke out against the plan. They don't think the consolidation will save the county as much money as expected and worry services will suffer.

 

The city of Flint has started sending out layoff notices to city employees.
But so far, none of the notices have gone out to those who work in public safety.
The city of Flint is wrestling with an estimated 5 million dollar short fall in this year’s city budget.    The mayor wants the city’s unions to absorb about half of that deficit with double digit wage and benefit concessions.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse
David Plotzki/Creative Commons

State tourism officials are hoping to get the Pure Michigan tourism campaign back on the air-waves.

The campaign was stopped earlier this year when the state ran out of money to pay for the ads.

As Rick Pluta reports, Governor Granholm has asked the legislature to tap into a projected budget windfall as a short-term solution to pay for the ads.

Governor Granholm has said the 'Pure Michigan' campaign generates $2.23 in tourism-related activity for every dollar spent on the ads.

A poll of likely Michigan voters released earlier this month showed strong support for the Pure Michigan ad campaign.

School student in Japan reading a book outside
Mehan / Creative Commons

Governor Grahom recently aired the idea of an extended school year for Michigan students. She says U.S. students are at a disadvantage globally. So how often are kids in other countries in school?

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Great Recession has meant tough times for state governments. Michigan has been hit extra hard and leaders in the state have been fighting over a shrinking budget for several years.  These budget battles have led to brief government shutdowns in years past. But with the new fiscal year starting October 1st, leaders in the state seem to have resolved their differences.

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