Nobody can recall seeing anything quite like it. Finally, after weeks of fruitless backroom negotiations, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm finally unveiled a state budget proposal.
And it was immediately attacked -- not, as you would expect, by the Republicans, but by Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, the governor's fellow Democrat.
"The governor should know that showboating a proposal that has no chance of passing is not a way to solve the state's fiscal crisis," he said. "All parties need to put theatrics and demands aside and get back to the hard work of negotiating a budget solution," he fumed.
This happened barely three weeks before the state has to pass a balanced budget for fiscal 2010 -- or face a new government shutdown. To do that, they have to plug a nearly $3 billion deficit.
Republicans and Democrats are reportedly miles apart on how to solve the deficit, and now the top Democrat in the Legislature is attacking the governor of his own party.
What in the world is happening here?
Simply this. Both Democrats and Republicans have a lot of contempt for the governor -- not as a person, but as a leader. Without a doubt, she is the weakest governor the state has had since World War II. She has no coherent vision. Worse, she has enormous difficulty making and sticking to decisions. She shows little consistent pattern of rewarding friends and punishing foes.
Her governing style is surprisingly inept, even after nearly seven years on the job. The way in which she presented her budget is a perfect example. The governor's office ought to have put forward a budget proposal months ago -- after consulting fully with her legislative leaders to make sure they were behind it.
Yet she dithered, and huddled for weeks in secret negotiations with the legislative leadership of both parties, talks that were evidently fruitless. That isn't very surprising, if she never presented them with an actual budget. When she finally did on Tuesday, she evidently did so without consulting Dillon.
Worse, she then said -- also without consulting the Speaker -- that she wanted the House to start passing her budget bills the very next day. That makes sense only if she wanted to insult not only the Speaker, but the entire Legislature. They are not her paid staff, but independently elected officials who don't feel any need to blindly rubber-stamp her proposals.
Thanks to term limits, she is, in fact, a lame duck. Add to that the fact that her budget wasn't even really complete -- while she indicated how much overall money she wanted to cut, she didn't say which programs would face the knife.
There is, of course, some other background to all this. Several weeks ago, Speaker Dillon proposed combining all state employees under a single health plan to save money. The plan was widely praised by independents, editorial boards, and even some Republicans, including former Gov. John Engler. But after some initial indecision, Granholm declined to support the idea.
The Speaker is also thought to be considering a run for the Democratic nomination for governor next year. Granholm is working hard to get Lt. Gov. John Cherry the nomination.
Most Republicans would much rather run against Cherry, who they think would be easier to beat. They were gleefully happy to see the two top Democrats going at it.
But while all these shenanigans were going on behind the scenes, the state seemed farther away from a budget agreement than ever. And one needs to be signed, sealed and passed before Oct. 1, or state government will be legally required to shut down.
New name, new focus
In the aftermath of Detroit's destructive riots of 1967, a group of business leaders banded together in a bid to restore economic health to the region.
They called their group Detroit Renaissance, and it has labored to try and revive the Motor City ever since. Now, it is changing its name to Business Leaders of Michigan, and revamping its mission.
David Brandon, the CEO of Domino's Pizza Inc., will chair the new organization, which now consists of about 50 CEOs of large and medium-sized companies. He said Detroit Renaissance has been frustrated in its efforts to get legislators to take the necessary steps to help business and they were perceived to lack clout because they were seen as only a regional, not a statewide group.
Now, as Business Leaders for Michigan, they intend to broaden their base, increase their membership, form a political action committee and work hard to achieve state government reform.
Incidentally, Brandon told Crain's Detroit Business the change doesn't mean the group intends to abandon Detroit.