Hundreds of Michigan residents from all walks of life swarmed the state Capitol on Wednesday, adding their voices to what already is a noisy debate about the state's government budget problems.
Groups opposed to tax increases warned lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm they had better fix the state's budget problems without asking them to pay more.
Educators and arts groups lobbied to avoid cuts to school programs.
Meanwhile, Granholm wants leaders in the state Legislature to meet with her administration Thursday morning to negotiate toward a settlement of the state's budget problems.
Granholm is calling for the meeting because the House and Senate have each passed their own versions of plans to start eliminating budget deficits for this fiscal year. While that is a sign of progress, the plans passed by the two chambers are quite different -- and Granholm has her own proposals to try and fix the budget situation.
"We're pleased the House has moved forward a plan so negotiations can begin," Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said Wednesday.
So far, the parties have agreed on only about one-third of a $1 billion combined deficit in the state's general and school aid funds for the budget year that began in October. And the deficit is likely to grow because the state isn't bringing in as much tax revenue as expected because of a sluggish economy.
Democrats would like to see tax increases as part of the budget solution, saying the state can't cut its way out of the deficit without gutting vital programs.