Opinion: Promises aren't good enough

Mike Shirkey

More than six weeks ago, the Senate sent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a balanced budget. The governor responded by eliminating funding for autism therapy, dementia support, veterans’ services, foster care programs, investigations of child abuse, shelters for human trafficking victims, police road patrols, tuition grants, child care and a whole host of other programs that deliver critical services throughout our state.

State Sen. Mike Shirkey

In the months leading up to her funding cuts, Whitmer visited organizations where she made public statements and pledged support for programs only to later cut funding. The Senate funded the programs. Whitmer cut those programs. 

Whitmer used her red pen to veto funding. She used an administrative board made up of her employees and fellow elected Democrats to transfer money away from programs. Whitmer’s use of transfer authority was unprecedented.

It is now several weeks later, and Whitmer has offered a proposal to restore funding. The proposal is predicated on the governor promising not to remove funding or exercise executive privilege to later transfer dollars away from programs. 

The Senate is willing to act on the governor’s proposal as long as it is reflected in law. We have seen first-hand the dependability of Whitmer’s promises. Citizens across Michigan are without critical support because of the governor's broken promises.

Many years ago, James Madison wrote about the necessity of governmental constraint in Federalist 51:

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

“The great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack … if men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

The danger inherent in Whitmer’s actions demands a commensurate defense in response. Her offer of a promise would only suffice if men and women were angels. We are not. 

The Senate is ready and willing to agree to a compromise that restores funding for critical programs and changes the law to ensure dollars remain with budget priorities.

Without a change in law, Whitmer could defund critical programs again, and again, and again, and the Senate can do nothing to stop her. The governor’s promise is not good enough for the Senate and not good enough for the people of Michigan. 

Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, is the Michigan Senate Majority Leader. He is in his second term serving the state's 16th Senate District.