Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is seen in an Aug. 29, 2007 photo in Lansing, Mich. Bernero said Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 he plans to create an exploratory committee as he considers challenging Lt. Gov. John Cherry and others for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year. The former state lawmaker will file paperwork this week and plans to decide whether to enter the race early next year. (AP Photo/Lansing State Journal, Rod Sanford)
As the City Council Ways and Means Committee conducted its regular business Thursday, just one floor below them Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero conducted some regular business of his own: vetoing the Council's budget changes.
The veto was no surprise. Mayor Bernero and Lansing Board of Water and Light already agreed upon a $17 million deal Tuesday, but City Council wanted an additional $1.5 million, which is exactly what the mayor rejected today.
"It's take it or leave it," Mayor Bernero said. "You know, five percent's what's on the table. It was four percent. It's a $3 million increase over the next five years. If they can't live on that, if we can't live within our means, I don't blame the Board of Water and Light a bit for saying enough is enough.
Bernero said the Council can't treat BWL like its personal piggy bank.
"There's Monopoly money that they've been playing with, and there's la-la land, and some of these council members - I think that's where they are," Mayor Bernero said.
BWL already agreed to the mayor's proposed increase to 5 percent return on equity, but City Council hopes a meeting could still change the Board's mind, getting it to 5.5 percent.
"We're anxious to sit down and talk with them and see what kind of information we can exchange between the two of us, and see if we can't change that agreement," said Lansing City Councilwoman Carol Wood.
Wood and other council members want that meeting to happen within the next two weeks, before the deadline for a veto override.
"As much as we're focused right now on today's budget, we need to be focused on the budgets in the future," Wood said. "Adding an extra half a percent will make a difference in the future for helping our structural deficit."
But the mayor said that's simply not happening.
"There ain't gonna be any adjustment from the board," Mayor Bernero said. "They're offering 5 percent, they've done what they need to do, and they're not meeting in June. If we don't get an agreement signed by June 30, we get zero."
The Mayor said he doubts the council will get the six votes needed to override his veto. The council has to approve a payment contract with BWL by June 30. If not, the city will have a $17 million deficit, and the mayor said he'd start making painful cuts to close it right away.