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Michigan’s Quad Leaders: ‘We’re Going to Work Together’

Crain’s Content Studio

Against the backdrop of Thursday morning’s signing of landmark auto insurance reform on the Grand Hotel’s front porch, Michigan’s legislative leaders gathered that evening to talk shop about the pressing issues still lingering as they move toward budget negotiations and reaching a deal on increased funding for the state’s declining roads.

On May 31 at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference, the legislative quadrant of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-16), Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-27), House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-107), and House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-37) convened in a session moderated by Detroit Public Television’s Stephen Henderson and The Detroit News’ Nolan Finley.

The group initially reveled in their recent success with the new reform package’s passage.

“When you tackled something that’s eluded the state for 30 years, victory has a thousand fathers,” said Chatfield.

And with the passage of the budget and road funding the next looming objective, Chatfield saw this progress as a positive precedent.

“I’m optimistic,” Chatfield said. “I am sitting here with what we just accomplished saying we’re going to get this done. We’re going to work together; we have an open mind on it.”

Despite the differences that exist between the parties, which were evident in the discussion, there were several overtures that underscored the mutual hope for compromise over the rest of the legislative session.

“Gov. Whitmer is my governor and she’s going to be my governor until she’s not elected, and I’m committed to supporting her in every way I can, given the differences that we have,” Shirkey said.

Greig pointed to exploring larger possibilities, such as municipal revenue sharing and education funding, as the budgetary process continues.

“There’s nothing that says this has to be a linear approach,” Greig said. “We have immense talents in these two chambers on both sides of the aisle and we can start looking at those issues at the same time we’re doing the other big things.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Shirkey revealed that in “three years,” which he later corrected to “2021,” he intends to create a ballot proposal reforming the state’s legislative term limits, which are currently the strictest in the nation.
  • The leaders made it clear they still had considerable space to bridge before reaching an agreement about how to fund Michigan’s roads. Democratic leaders were behind Gov. Whitmer’s proposed 45-cent gas tax increase. Shirkey replied to an inquiry about support from his caucus with a simple “nope.” A counterproposal of sorts from Republican legislators is not yet ready, Shirkey said.
  • All agreed that they would like to see a new budget passed in a timely manner, but leaders did not offer any promises. Chatfield said they would work “as long as it takes to have a good budget.” They didn’t predict a budget passage would come down to the line, however.
  • Shirkey also said he intended to assess the “original intent,” of Proposal A, a measure which is responsible in part for declining municipal revenues, to see if the policy has had “unintended consequences.” There wasn’t a hint about any of the reforms long-sought from municipal groups.

This session was sponsored by Consumers Energy.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio for the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.