Republicans rule the roost in Lansing—but decidedly not in harmony. GOP lawmakers, who run the Legislature, rebuffed GOP Gov. Rick Snyder twice last week.
Snyder abruptly cut short a trade mission to Israel—not even having time to change clothes upon his return—to lobby for a Senate vote to expand insurance under Medicaid to several hundred thousand low-income adults.
“Take a vote, not a vacation,” Snyder wisely urged in one of the more memorable gubernatorial urgings to recalcitrant state lawmakers. The Senate adjourned without voting, opting instead for a vacation.
Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, hailed Snyder’s vote/vacation comment but chided him for “leaving the country as the legislation was struggling to find support in the Senate.”
She said: “I’ve seen a lot of disappointing actions take place in the Legislature over the past couple years, but yesterday I was absolutely disgusted to see my Republican colleagues simply walk away from doing their jobs for the summer without taking action on something as critical to the well-being of our state and our families as Medicaid expansion.”
(There’s debate about whether Snyder can call a special session of the Legislature.)
The Legislature also adjourned without action on Snyder’s $1.2 billion transportation package, or even trying to resolve differing approaches.
While there are Democrats and Republicans alike opposed to Snyder’s original idea of increasing fuel and vehicle fees, the folly of the GOP-led Legislature bolting town without any action was underscored by a report that more than one in 10 Michigan bridges are ranked “structurally deficient” based on a national database of bridge inspections by the Federal Highway Administration.
“It is vital that the Michigan Legislature act this summer to help raise the badly needed revenue to meet this obligations,” Tim Fischer, deputy policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council, said of Snyder’s support of investments in road, bridge and transportation infrastructure.
John LaMacchia, legislative associate with the Michigan Municipal League, said: “Allowing roads and bridges to slip into disrepair ultimately costs state and local governments billions more than the costs of regular, timely repair. The backlog also increases safety risks safety risks, stalls economic prosperity and burdens taxpayers.”
Beyond the standard economic issues discussed above, dominant at play are increasing tea party activists among Michigan Republicians. As noted by The Detroit News, “In recent weeks, tea party activists have threatened to field primary challengers against Republican senators who vote to expand Medicaid — a key component to lowering the number of uninsured Americans under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.”
Furthermore, a source close to Snyder hears that several congressional district party leaders are prepared to oppose him in a 2014 primary over the Medicaid issue.
Hang in there, Governor.
George Weeks is a member of the Michigan Journalism Fall of Fame. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.