Politics & Government

News Roundup
9:21 am
Tue May 17, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara creative commons

Lansing City Council makes cuts

On the heels of a failed millage and a $14.7 million budget shortfall, the Lansing City Council approved a budget last night that would eliminate more than 100 city positions. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody was at the council meeting and reported that dozens of firefighters and police officers could be laid off as well. Mayor Bernero said the cuts in the budget were unavoidable:

"Over half the budget is in police and fire.  And yet, we have insulated police and fire up to this point…because the deficit was too large.   But even now, we are doing everything we can to mitigate the effects on police and fire."

The Lansing State Journal reports that the city will attempt to reduce the number of cuts through employee concessions:

Slightly more than 100 city workers could lose their jobs under Lansing's fiscal 2012 budget, though the city will attempt to preserve up to 61 of them by seeking employee concessions.Under the new budget, approved 5-3 by the City Council on Monday night, $3.3 million in state funds will be matched for every dollar gained in concessions before the fiscal year begins July 1.

New Emergency Manager starts at Detroit Public Schools

Roy Roberts a former GM executive, had his first day on the job yesterday. The Detroit Free Press reports he'll work alongside outgoing Emergency Manager Robert Bobb until Bobb's contract ends "no later than June."

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported that Roberts says the district "must undergo a 'cultural change' and reject a 'Rodney Dangerfield kind of mentality' for students to succeed.

Roberts has to balance a budget deficit of $327 million, and he can do that with broadened powers granted to him under the state's new emergency manager law.

Cwiek reports that Roberts "says he doesn’t have plans to dismiss the elected school board or throw out union contracts, though."

The Freep reports that Roberts is working under a one-year, $250,000 contract.

Snyder calls for less humility and more unity

Governor Rick Snyder gave a speech to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids yesterday in which he asked for "less humility, a bit more swagger and a lot more unity among Michiganders," according to Chris Knape from the Grand Rapids Press:

“We're too negative,” Snyder told what was billed as a record Econ Club crowd gathered at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. “We look in the rear view mirror too much to say, 'this is what we've always had, so we've got to keep that going.'"

Snyder also lambasted the taste for political winners and losers in the state.

“Too often they will view they won something because somebody else has lost,” he said.

Knape reported that Snyder had "generally positive responses from the business-heavy crowd," except for one element in his speech - tax credits - Snyder's explanation "landed with a thud," according to Knape.

Politics
12:15 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Vote to end oil subsidies must overcome filibuster

Congress is expected to vote this week on whether to take away 4-billion dollars in subsidies to oil companies. 

Oil company executives testified in Washington last week that they need tax subsidies to help them find new, American sources of oil. 

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says she doubts that’s the case.  She says the subsidies amount to 1% of the companies' profits, and it’s fair to ask them to contribute that amount to paying down the national debt. 

Stabenow says the testimony by the leaders of the oil companies shows they are “out of touch."

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Politics
11:32 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Lansing city council approves budget with deep cuts in public safety

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing city council voted 5 to 3 last night to approve a city budget that deeply cuts police and fire in the capitol city.    Lansing, like many Michigan cities, is struggling with declining tax revenues and rising health care costs. 

Last night, the city council approved a budget that lays off more than a hundred city employees, including dozens of police officers and firefighters.  

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero says the cuts in public safety are unavoidable. 

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Politics
6:39 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

State government has more money to spend (but should it?)

State Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Budget officials were briefed Monday on how Michigan’s economic recovery is shaping up, and what that means for the state budget. The news was mostly good – it appears there’s another $430 million available to help balance the budget. 

 Now that it’s agreed Michigan’s economy is improving and there’s more revenue, the arguments have started about how to use that money.  

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Politics
6:28 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Gov. Snyder welcomes improving tax revenue picture

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Michigan
(Official state portrait)

The state is on track to bring in about $430 million more than originally forecast for the coming fiscal year. That’s according to state officials and economists who met today at the state Capitol for a revenue estimating conference.  

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s happy to hear the state is on the track to economic recovery. But he does not want to spend the money too quickly.  

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Politics
6:12 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Repealing Michigan's emergency financial manager law

A group announced plans today to ask voters to repeal Michigan's Emergency Financial Manager law.  Recent changes to the law give broad powers to state appointed financial managers.  The EFM's have the authority to void union contracts and strip power from local elected governments and school districts. 

Brandon Jessup leads a group called 'The Campaign to Build Michigan'.   He says the law violates the rights of Michiganders.  Jessup says his group hopes to get approval for petition language next month.  

He says they hope to collect enough signatures to get the question put on the ballot in 2012. 

Politics
5:27 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Homeland Security ends program targeting Muslims

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ended a controversial program targeting men from majority-Muslim countries.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) began in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The program required men from predominantly Muslim nations and North Korea living in the U.S. to be interviewed and fingerprinted by Homeland Security.

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Politics
1:56 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Flint flirts with opening door to state appointed financial manager

The mayor of Flint is expected to take a step this week toward asking the state to review his city's finances. It's a move that could potentially lead to a state appointed emergency manager taking over control of the city.   

The Flint Journal reported over the weekend that Mayor Dayne Walling plans to ask the Flint city council to consider requesting a state  review of the city's finances.   

 It's a move the mayor reportedly hopes will give him or the city council the power to alter city union contracts.   It could also lead to the appointment of an emergency manager.  

Less than a decade ago, Flint's finances were run by an emergency financial manager.    But recent changes in the law have given emergency managers much more power, including the ability to effectively strip  elected officials of their authority and throw out union contracts.  

Flint is struggling with a large projected budget deficit, and recently sold bonds to pay off a portion of the city's debt.

Politics
1:49 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Lansing decides city budget tonight

The Lansing city council is scheduled to vote on next year's city budget this evening.   Declining property values and rising health care costs are forcing deep spending cuts. 

 City leaders hope an estimated 4 million dollars in state revenue sharing will allow a reduction in the number of possible police and fire fighter layoffs.

Jerry Ambrose is Lansing's city finance director.    He says the Mayor's office is also seeking 3 million dollars in union contract concessions, mainly in health care coverage. 

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Politics
1:24 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

State economists expect Michigan tax revenues to be up

Economists say the state is expected to take in more than $400 million more than anticipated.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State economists agree that Michigan is expected to take in $429 million more this fiscal year than they forecast in January.

But their predictions for the next budget year have dropped as deep business tax cuts take effect.

Lawmakers will be able to use some of this year's surplus in the next budget year, and lawmakers are likely to consider putting some of the money toward easing deep cuts for public schools in 2011-12.

Without the business tax cut, the state would have gotten nearly $500 million more in the next budget year than state economists had predicted in January. But that will largely disappear as business revenue declines.

The heads of the Treasury Department and House and Senate fiscal agencies agreed on the revenue figures Monday.

Politics
10:30 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Newt Gingrich compares Obama's policies to "Detroit and destruction"

Don't look now, but the 2012 presidential election is under way, and candidates are working to score political points early - so why not take a potshot at Detroit while you're at it?

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said President Obama's policies are "going to lead us down the path to Detroit and destruction" on NBC's Meet the Press.

Here's the clip:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gingrich said Obama's policies are increasing dependence on entitlements. He called Obama the "food stamp president" in a recent speech in Georgia, his home state.

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Commentary
10:18 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Redistricting Dilemma

When I was twelve years old, Sander Levin, who everybody calls Sandy, was my state senator. When I was eighteen, he ran for governor. He was elected congressman for the district where I now live when I was thirty years old. Next year, I will be sixty.

And Sandy Levin, who turns eighty this summer, will still be representing me in Congress. That’s not to imply that he isn’t still sharp. On the contrary, Levin was chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee until Democrats lost control of the House last fall. But he, and the Democrats, have a dilemma.

Republicans are  entirely in charge of the congressional redistricting process this year.  Michigan is losing a seat in Congress, and you know Republicans are going to try to eliminate one of the six seats Democrats hold, not one of the nine held by their party.

Everything I know tells me that they are most likely to throw Sandy Levin in a district with Gary Peters, now serving his second term in the House. Levin has far more name recognition and seniority than Peters.  If the two men are forced to battle against each other in a primary, he’ll almost certainly be the favorite.

Both men also say they are running for re-election, no matter what. But - should Sandy Levin really do this? Might it be better for him - and especially, for his party - if he makes a graceful exit?

Here’s why I say that: Most of Michigan’s Democratic delegation in the House of Representatives are old. Really old.

Next year, John Dingell will be eighty-six. Dale Kildee and John Conyers, eighty-three, Levin, eighty-one. The only exceptions are the just-elected Hansen Clarke of Detroit, who will be fifty-five, and Peters, fifty-three. Does it make sense for the state and the party to sacrifice the career of the fifty-three year old so the guy more than old enough to be his father can have another term?

Within a very few years, all of those lions are going to be gone, one way or another.

Does it make sense to lose all our experience pretty much at once?

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News Roundup
8:37 am
Mon May 16, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, May 16th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Estimating the State’s Finances

A budget panel is meeting this morning in Lansing to figure out how much money the state has to spend in the fiscal year that begins on October 1st. It was announced on Friday that the state is expected to have half a billion dollars or more in revenue than was previously predicted. Some lawmakers want to use the windfall to roll back proposed budget cuts, including cuts to K-12 schools. Governor Snyder says some of the money should be put towards the state’s emergency savings.

EFM Repeal

A group looking to repeal the state’s new financial manager law is expected to detail their plans today, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Michigan Forward says it will talk about the coalition formed to launch the "Campaign to Build Michigan" this morning. The legislation signed into law in March gives state-appointed financial managers broader powers to correct the finances of communities and school districts.

The meeting will take place in Detroit.

McCotter: Not In

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia announced over the weekend that he will not run against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in 2012. Rep. McCotter is yet another Michigan Republican who has decided not to run against Stabenow. Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra and former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land both have said they will not run. Former Kent County Judge Randy Heckman is the only Republican to announce his candidacy for the seat.

Election 2012
6:40 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Rep. McCotter won't challenge Senator Stabenow in 2012

Livonia Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter says he won't challenge U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) in 2012.
Republican Conference Flickr

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia says he isn’t planning on challenging Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in 2012.

McCotter’s name had been talked about as a possible GOP candidate to run against Stabenow. The Detroit News reports:

McCotter, the fifth-term congressman who signaled last week he was considering a Senate run, said he's stepping aside for other GOP hopefuls.

"I did not wish to be a distraction for the stellar candidates now stepping forward to consider seeking the GOP U.S. Senate nomination," McCotter, of Livonia, said in statement that did not mention specific candidates.

Representative McCotter is just one more Michigan Republican who has decided not to jump into the race. Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra and former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land have both announced recently that they wouldn’t seek the GOP nomination.

Only one Republican candidate has entered the race so far. Former Kent County Judge Randy Heckman announced he would run for the seat earlier this year.

Stabenow has held the U.S. Senate seat since 2000.

State Budget
6:11 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Snyder says revenue windfall could be used to roll back budget cuts

A budget panel will meet this morning to consider economic forecasts and project how much money the state has to spend in the coming fiscal year.

Michigan’s economy is in the early stages of rebounding and it appears the state is bringing in the tax revenue to prove it. Many lawmakers want to use the windfall - half a billion dollars or more - to reverse cuts to K-12 schools.  And Governor Snyder says some of the money could be used to roll back the size of proposed budget cuts:

“If there’s funds are available, we should be looking at how we deal with some of these cuts. These were tough calls.”

But Governor Snyder and other Republicans also say they want to be careful about spending additional revenue instead of fixing ongoing budget pressures. The governor says some of the money could also be used to shore up the state’s emergency savings in case the economy takes a another tumble.

Politics
5:00 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

There's good & bad news today about Lansing's city budget crisis

Lansing city council president A'Lynne Robinson (right) talks to the news media about the city's budget crisis, while council vice president Kathie Dunbar listens, outside the Southside Community Center
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s mixed news today concerning the city of Lansing’s budget crisis.  City leaders have been trying to figure out how to deal with a projected 20 million dollar budget deficit.   

 N0w, city council vice president Kathie Dunbar says the city learned this week that its employee health care costs will rise 2 million dollars higher than expected next year. 

She says fortunately the state legislature has passed a budget plan that should guarantee the city 4 million dollars in state revenue sharing funds. 

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Politics
4:26 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

Governor Snyder defends tax plan

Russ Climie Tiberius Images

Governor Rick Snyder defends his tax overhaul, which has drawn a lot of criticism from the public in recent weeks, saying that he is confident that cutting taxes for Michigan businesses will create jobs. The Legislature approved his tax plan yesterday and it’s on its way to Snyder’s desk for his signature.

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Politics
4:15 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

White House, Christie and others respond to Romney's health care speech at U-M

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The responses are in for Mitt Romney's health care speech, and they are pretty mixed. 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie praised former Massachussetts Governor Romney's honesty without commenting directly on either his policies or his candidacy. 

Politico reports:

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Politics
3:45 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

A conversation with Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (audio)

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer

Yesterday the state Senate passed a comprehensive tax overhaul bill. It went to the House where it was approved and it’s now headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk for his signature.

The tax overhaul includes the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, in favor of a corporate profits tax.  It also eliminates a host of tax breaks, including the income tax exemption for pensions.

Seven Republicans joined the twelve Democrats in the Senate in voting against the proposal. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer is opposed to the tax restructuring

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Whitmer. Here's the interview.

Politics
1:30 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

Michigan to take in $427M more than expected

Andy Flickr

The House Fiscal Agency says it expects Michigan to take in $427 million more by Sept. 30 than earlier forecasts.

It tempers the good news with a warning that the new business tax cut just enacted will create a deficit in the next budget year that will have to be filled with about $77 million of the extra revenue.

The agency released its figures Friday in anticipation of Monday's revenue estimating conference where state economists will forecast how much tax money the state will take in through 2012.

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