It was March 5 that Whitmer proposed the state's budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins Oct. 1. The Lansing State Journal editorial board at the time called the executive proposal — and the 45-cent fuel tax it includes — a "good opening salvo," and "one that starts a much needed conversation."
Problem is, there hasn't been much conversation.
And no alternatives have been revealed by legislators in the nearly four months that have passed since the proposal was announced.
July 1 marked the beginning of the fiscal year used chiefly by schools and colleges to budget without interruption to the academic calendar. It also will marked the first time in nearly a decade that Michigan's state government has failed to pass a budget by this date.
Although the official deadline is Sept. 30, by not passing the budget early this year, state legislators are foreshadowing what's to come. Holding decisions until close to deadline fosters political gamesmanship, creates situations that are ripe for secrecy and subverts the public debate that is a hallmark of our democracy.
That's simply unacceptable.
After signing the budget last year, then-Gov. Rick Snyder said, "I am proud of the budget I signed today, as well as the previous seven budgets. We have created a new culture and expectation here in Lansing of getting budgets done responsibly, thoughtfully and early."
Where is that responsibility, thoughtfulness and timeliness now?
For the past eight years, Republicans controlled the executive branch and both legislative bodies. Now that the Republican-controlled Legislature is forced to work with a Democratic governor, progress has stalled.
Why does it matter?
Without a state budget, schools can't plan for a full academic year. Programs that rely on state support are forced to decide if they begin anyway without the promise of a budget or cancel for an entire year.
And beyond schools, there are critical issues Michigan faces that must be addressed in the budget: road funding, veteran services, public safety and more.
What's at stake?
Included in Whitmer's proposal are a number of increases and decreases to address changing needs in the state. Each is of great importance on their own, together these issues affect virtually everyone in the state.
Earlier this year, the Legislature and governor displayed a willingness to negotiate and compromise on auto insurance reforms, an issue that's been debated for years without a solution. That teamwork should serve as a blueprint for budget negotiations.
It's past time for legislative leaders to transparently issue their budgets so the real work can begin. It's easy to criticize the governor's plan — it's harder to come up with an alternative.
The people of Michigan deserve a government that serves their interests and includes them in the democratic process. Dallying on the budget as July 1 rolls by and the Sept. 30 deadline looms reflects poor leadership. And it shows a willingness to put political interests above legislative ones.
Show us your proposed budgets, legislative leaders, and then come to the table to find workable solutions that put the interests of all Michiganders first.
BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER (AP)