Cooperation Leads to State Budget Progress: An Op-Ed from Senator Randy Richardville
The state's troubling economy and budget deficit have frustrated Michigan residents. They're tired of the blame game where everyone accuses others for the financial problems that the state is facing. Instead, the public wants to hear that the budget deficit is being erased.
Fortunately, I have good news. The Michigan Senate has continually met and worked with the House to take a positive step forward and address the budget deficit for fiscal year 2007.
To understand what progress has been made, we need to first review what has happened since the start of the 2007 fiscal year back in October. As early as January, we learned that the state faced a combined deficit of $942.4 million. Additional revenue estimates that occurred on May 18 found a $600 million deficit in the general fund and a $202.8 million shortfall in the School Aid Fund.
In February, the governor unveiled her executive budget announcing $1.5 billion in new taxes on Michigan residents already suffering in one of the nation's worst economies. The Senate recognized that the two-cent tax increase would not effectively solve the budget deficit and voted it down.
At the end of March, a second executive order was issued by the governor. The Senate approved it on the same day, while the House approved it one week later. By passing this executive order, the Legislature reduced the general fund budget deficit by $309.9 million.
In late April, the Senate took immediate action to address the remaining general fund shortfall. Senate Bill 220, a budget-reduction bill, was sent directly to conference committee after it was passed by both the Senate and the House. The Senate also voted in favor of sending Senate Bill 221 to the governor's desk for her signature to expedite the balancing of the School Aid Fund. This resolved $314 million of the known School Aid Fund deficit.
On Friday, May 25, the Senate and House remained in session and agreed on a plan that will help close the fiscal year 2007 budget deficit. The proposal enacted a 4 percent cut to the state Legislature's budget, which is a $4.5 million reduction. It also maintained revenue sharing to keep essential services intact for residents; rejected Medicaid cuts, thereby protecting Michigan's low-income children, families and seniors; prevented layoffs for state troopers to ensure public safety; and preserved education funding by not including the administration's estimated $122 per student reduction to the 2007 School Aid Fund.
We know that this is a difficult time for families, schools and communities. The Senate, in cooperation with the House, had made progress to resolve the state's budget deficit. Solving the 2007 budget will allow us to move forward and address the enormous challenges for the upcoming year.
I am optimistic that we will continue to work together to implement a long-term plan for Michigan.
Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2007
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