Finley: With veto threat, Snyder pushes legislators to enact his agenda
Gov. Rick Snyder has his own agenda for the lame duck session of the Legislature, and is willing to leverage his veto pen and power of the purse to put it in place.
The Republican governor has enjoyed an uneven relationship with the GOP-controlled Legislature during his eight-year tenure.
But with just days left for the governor to cement his legacy, he's signalling he'll take a tougher stance to get what he wants. A top administration official told me the governor will hold the Legislature's favorite bills hostage unless it passes his priorities.
Top among them heading into lame duck was getting final approval for the Straits of Mackinac utility corridor, which would carry the Enbridge Line 5 petroleum pipeline, power lines and communications cables through a tunnel deep below the lake bed. It looks like the governor has already scored a win: the Senate passed the bill Thursday and the House is likely approve it next week.
But Snyder's other agenda items are still meeting resistance from Republicans. They include:
- Passage of the Renew Michigan package. The governor has been battling the Legislature for more than a year to get a permanent funding source for cleaning up the 3,000 pollution hot spots. Snyder wants to raise the dumping fee to $3.75 a ton from the current 39 cents, to both discourage the import of garbage from other states and replace a $1 billion depleted bond issue approved during the Engler administration. Republicans see the fee increase -- $4 per household annually on average -- as a tax hike.
- Approval of the Rebuild Michigan proposal. Snyder hopes to add a new levy onto water bills averaging $20 a year per household to help local communities rebuild water and sewer lines. Again, GOP lawmakers aren't budging on their no new taxes pledge.
Establishing a simple A to F grading system for public schools to make it easier for parents to judge school performance. Education unions have kept Democrats in the "no" column, and local school superintendents have successfully lobbied Republicans.
Finally, the governor wants Lawmakers to put on the ballot a proposal to amend the Natural Resources Trust fund, which collects revenue from oil and gas leases on state-owned land. He wants the authority to use more of the money for park maintenance and improvements. Getting the issue before voters requires two-thirds approval of the Legislature. Snyder won over Democrats by agreeing to automatically assess motorists the recreational passport fee, instead of asking them to opt-in. But he needs many more Republican votes.
Political hardball is not the governor's favorite sport. But the administration source says he's willing to play it now.
Snyder holds two hammers. The heaviest is his authority to veto bills passed by the Legislature.
Republicans want his signature on the just passed bills to water down the minimum wage and mandatory sick leave initiatives. The governor earlier cautioned lawmakers not to overreach, and intentionally hasn't signalled whether he's satisfied with the final version.
The GOP also is moving on bills to strip away power from the new Democratic secretary of state and attorney general. Snyder hasn't shown his hand on those measures, either, and won't, the source said, until his proposals pass.
If the veto threat isn't enough to get the Legislature's attention, Snyder will bargain with the supplemental appropriation. More than $500 million in surplus funds are sitting in the Treasury, and lawmakers want the money for a variety of pet projects.
Snyder has said he will work until his last day in office. It looks like he'll spend the final weeks playing Let's Make a Deal with his fellow Republicans.