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Op-ed: Governor Whitmer’s Budget Busting Deficit

At the beginning of 2020, Michigan's economy was on track to continue growing, helping to contribute to the most prolonged economic expansion our nation has ever seen. Then in early March, Michigan was hit with the novel coronavirus. Since then, Michigan's families and businesses have been impacted by over 80 executive orders issued by Governor Whitmer. The executive orders have had a direct impact on our state's economy and the state's budget is facing a crisis not experienced in decades.

When Governor Whitmer issued her first "Stay at Home, Stay Safe" order, the goal was apparent – flatten the curve to help save PPE and not overrun our already over-stressed health care system. While the Governor initially issued these orders with the honest intention to save lives, it is impossible to ignore the negative impact her decisions have had on Michigan workers, businesses, and the state budget. Every day our economy remains shuttered, more businesses are closing their doors permanently, state revenues drop, and the budget deficit continues to grow. For weeks, the Governor has known about the impending budget shortfall, which is now barreling out of control.

Today, I watched the May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. Economists met to present an overview of the state's financial status and estimate future revenues for budgeting purposes. The outcome should not be shocking and can be summed up in two words: Life Support. While projections were made over the past few weeks, this morning's meeting confirmed that the one-size-fits-all approach, vague tiered re-engagement plans, and never-ending executive orders are decimating Michigan's economy -- and will be for years to come.

Michigan is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget, coronavirus, or not. Those who do not feel the economic pain yet may very well by the time the required budget cuts soon hit. Public safety, education, roads, mental health services, revenue sharing, and more – programs and services that touch every Michigan family will be impacted. The estimated pitfall for this year totals $3.2 Billion and the 2021 pitfall will be approximately $3 Billion. That is approximately $6.2 Billion in all. Of those figures, the School Aid Fund is looking at approximately $2.4 Billion in lost revenue for 2020-2021.

Michigan law requires that when state revenues fall drastically shorter than appropriated expenditures, the Governor must send the Legislature a negative supplemental. For two months, the governor has known about the train wreck heading toward our state's budget, and instead of working with those who rely on the state funding they receive, the Governor has continued to pin her hopes on the federal government sending Michigan more money. Now, the Governor has four months left to propose and implement an approved negative supplemental cutting a massive percentage of the state budget.

While the Governor continues to procrastinate, it is the Legislature, families, hospitals, teachers, counties, townships, law enforcement, small businesses, and more who will be left to face the stark, sobering reality of piecing back together our broken economy. Instead of delaying until June with the hope of getting help from the federal government, as she has publicly stated is her plan multiple times, the Governor should instead start taking immediate action.

Starting today, the Governor should begin working with the Legislature to start informing and helping those who will be impacted. We need to brace and prepare for the harsh budget cuts that are coming. Programs that provide important services to county residents such as The ARC of Livingston, PFAS clean-up programs, and LACASA need to know what is coming so they have time to prepare and adapt.

The first “Stay at Home” order was in place when I decided to run to serve as Livingston County's next state representative. I saw the writing on the wall. For weeks I have been vocal about the inevitable budget disaster and the impending reductions. I filed because we need leaders who have been through tough budget battles before and know how to be creative without raising taxes on the families and businesses of Michigan – especially when their pocketbooks are already empty. I have been there, and I am prepared to work with all groups to lead Michigan through these turbulent waters and back to prosperity. I was there when we earned the title of "The Comeback State," and I know, together, we can claim it again.

Meghan Reckling is a candidate for the 47th State House district. She and her husband, a law enforcement officer, live with their two children in Handy Township.

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