While Michigan was sleeping, a budget was unveiled, passed


You might not have caught the irony of the Michigan Senate passing a proclaimed expansion of the state’s open record law the same night it passed the most secretive budget in modern history, but I did.

Last week, the Senate spiked the football on bills (which aren’t going anywhere in the state House) that would create a bureaucracy designed to reject or heavily redact whatever open records request you might have for the state Legislature or the governor.

Today, you can request financial documents from the House and Senate under their internal rules but little else. Under these bills, you will be able to request financial documents from the Legislature, but not much more outside of a legislator’s public calendar.

Don’t fret over the feeble expansion, though. House members won’t pass it anyway. They have re-elections to win.

I only mention it because it creates the aforementioned irony: The same Senate stayed up until 5 a.m. to pass an $82.5 billion state budget for Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2025, that literally nobody with a normal sleep pattern read.

That’s because 1,519 pages of spending didn’t become a public document until five minutes after midnight June 27. At 12:05 a.m, a just-for-show committee met to unveil a public spending measure crafted with literally as much openness as the old redistricting process. 

The committee’s clerk, when asked to explain what were in these 1,519 pages, said, “Due to the lateness of the hour, I’m going to keep this brief.” He proceeded to utter a couple of numbers to a room of about 10 people. A motion was made to pass the document. A vote was taken. The chair pounded the gavel.

Mid-Michigan legislators Angela Witwer and Sarah Anthony, who spent the last few months concocting the whole thing with the governor’s budget office, a few other lawmakers and a bunch of staff scattered before too many questions were asked.

Between 12:05 a.m. and 5 a.m., the full House and Senate passed the budget with light debate. One of the Legislature’s 72 Republicans voted for it. 

Viola! A “bipartisan” budget was passed! While you were sleeping, no less! 

There was no need to look at the spending analyses because unless you’re a nocturnal creature with the sleep habits of a possum, you couldn’t have read it anyway.

That’s your state government working for you in 2024.

Between January and June this year, House Speaker Joe Tate was a broken record on the chamber’s only priority for 2024:  the budget. Tate talked of little else. Last year, the House passed a budget, too, along with a truckload of other policy priorities. This year, it was only the budget.

There wasn’t anything special about this year’s budget. The Constitution requires it, just like the calendar requires Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.

Michigan government didn’t have a bunch of extra money, nor was the state broke. The only difference is 2024 is this is an election year, and year and Democrats will struggle to keep a majority 56 House seats, especially with a barely functional 81-year-old as their presidential nominee.

So, to recap, the House unveiled and passed its professed No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 priorities for the ENTIRE YEAR while most normal human beings were asleep. 

More commotion might have been made over this example of bad government had the budget been terribly interesting, but it wasn’t. 

Back in February, the governor said she wanted: 

A 2.5% foundation allowance increase to public schools. 

Universal 4-year-old preschool. 

$1,000 rebates for all new automobiles purchased

  a Family Caregiver Tax credit of $5,000.

She got none of the above. 

Instead, she got the schools and teachers paying less into their retirement, which the school community panned because the reductions weren’t made permanent.

She also got a few hundred thousand dollars left on the balance sheet she can spend this fall on presumed economic development projects.

Don’t ask which ones. We’ll all find out after the deal is cut and bills are passed. 

During daylight hours, if we’re lucky.

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at melinnky@gmail.com.)


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Connect with us