The Knight’s Stand: Gov. Whitmer vetoes hurt more than they help


“IMG_4092” by austin_slack is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Last week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer miscalculated by making 147 line-item vetoes to the new budgets sent to her from state legislature. However, rather than appearing tough, the governor now looks heavy-handed, indiscriminate and unthoughtful to many Michiganders, including private college students who voted for her, such as myself.

Ostensibly, the point of the majority of cuts is to cut programs and projects important to Republicans in a bid to get them to act, rather than let the vetoed budget stand. This at first sounds like a well-conceived negotiating tactic, but in reality the specific cuts the governor made are affecting real people

In addition to vetoing educational grants for private and independent colleges, for example, the governor also cut funding to increase charter schools, which, though they are certainly supported and favored by Republican heavyweights such as the DeVos family, are actually still part of the public school system.

Additionally, as the Detroit Free Press reported, “About 150,000 children attend charter schools in Michigan, many of them in Detroit and other non-affluent areas.” The cuts also severely impact rural hospitals and programs for children with autism. Rather than conceiving the impact these cuts might have on low-income or otherwise disadvantaged individuals, the cuts serve to hurt and target a caricature of Republican policies rather than actually force action on the legislature’s part.

The result is to make Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike angry. Rather than forcing the legislature’s hand, the governor has now given them leverage. As Roscommon chairman of the county board of commissioners, Robert Schneider, said, “she’s the one who cut it out. Nobody else did that.” However, according to Whitmer, if the legislature keeps the cuts and refuses to act, “it’s going to be on them.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, is in “no rush” to address the cuts. Whitmer is relying on the fallacious language of “look what you made me do.” In the meantime, hard-working people of all political beliefs and walks of life have to sit and wait for our government to do what it promised.

Whitmer contends, “There were multiple reasons for each of these line item vetoes that was a lot more complicated than saying I picked winners and losers and tried to punish people.” Regardless of whether this is true, as a political strategy this move was flawed. It fails to give the legislature responsibility, and it makes the governor appear indecisive and damaging rather than tough.

Whitmer recently penned an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press to discuss her decision. It contains plenty of empty language about banding together for the common good and the “exciting opportunities” that lie ahead. She characterizes her indiscriminate cutting thus: “I carefully eliminated many government programs the Legislature repeatedly doled out to lobbyists and vendors with no concern for meaningful outcomes.” 

As a Democrat, I’ll be the first to decry many of the kinds of initiatives Republicans might privilege. But, how funding charter schools, autism support groups, and private college scholarships reflect no concern for meaningful outcomes is unclear. The comments are confusing. Although Whitmer writes about overcoming barriers and helping all Michiganders, her cuts have forced citizens, from public servants to blue-collar workers, to come up with unexpected cash for their programs, institutions and families.

Whitmer’s team has tried to place the blame on the Republican lawmakers for delivering a “fatally flawed” budget. The real fatal flaw was treating those she is supposed to represent as pawns in a budget battle.