Renewed optimism that Whitmer, Legislature can work together

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LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state lawmakers announced a deal last week aimed at generating a better working relationship and getting a budget done.

During the past year-plus of the pandemic, we have seen a an increasingly contentious relationship between the Democratic governor’s office and the Republicans who control the state Legislature.

So when a new deal was reached to lay out the Legislature’s role in future pandemic orders and cooperate on getting a budget done, the question was how that happened.

“My role has always been, as you know, to keep people in the room. Because as soon as you close doors and put a line in the sand, it’s really hard to do that,” state Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, who leads the minority in the upper chamber, said.

He said that on many issues, even regarding the pandemic, the two sides were not that far apart but just weren’t talking to each other.

“I always would kind of do the shuttle diplomacy back and forth before it got really, really bad and say, ‘We’re not that far off,'” Ananich said.

The deal scraps plans to allow the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create permanent COVID-19 mitigation rules and gives the Legislature a say in future pandemic decisions.

But the big ticket item is the budget.

Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said having lawmakers back in the mix means people’s voices will be heard — and that includes the governor.

“This is about giving people of Michigan a better government that works for them and not for the politics, so that’s why I worked incredibly hard to make sure that the people’s voice was back at the table on the pandemic management response and also to make sure that the governor’s at the table in negotiations for the budget,” Wentworth said. “I think this is a good step in that right direction.”

The framework of an agreement and even some tangible results have already been seen but the question of getting a budget done — and, particularly, getting it done early — with divided state government remains open.

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