Schools, Others in Limbo: Why Can't We Fix the Budget?

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Schools, healthcare, public safety: the governor says have uncertain funding in light of the budget crisis.

"We're sending a terrible message to the world about Michigan," said Bill Rustem, president of Public Sector Consultants in Lansing.

With all that attention focused on the state, why hasn't that crisis been resolved?

"Number one, we are in a more and more partisan atmosphere today then we have been in many, many years," Rustem said.

Evidenced, he says, by the debate over raising taxes or making more cuts.

But Rustem says there could be another culprit: the limits that keep lawmakers from serving more than two terms in the Senate and three terms in the House.

"We've put experience out of the equation and made it tougher and more difficult to reach the kind of solutions we have to reach," he said, because those in charge of the negotiation are relatively new to the process.

Aside from the Democrats who control the state Senate and Republicans who control the state House, there is a third party involved in figuring out the budget: the governor.

Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics told News 10 by phone today that if Governor Granholm would leave the negotiating to the house speaker and senate majority leader, a solution could come more quickly.

Thursday's flare-up between the governor and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop could be seen as evidence of that, but Rustem says what happens in the public eye is often deceiving.

"Beyond all that rhetoric and a little bit of nastiness, frankly, I'm hoping that they're meeting privately ... to come to some kind of agreement," he said.

Lawmakers technically have until October 1 to solve this year's deficit and make a plan for next year's budget. But if they want to try to lessen cuts to schools, they'll have to find an agreement by June 1.

For schools, medicaid recipients and countless others, that agreement can't come soon enough.

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