LANSING, Mich. -- Several hundred union members lobbied Michigan lawmakers Tuesday to vote against proposals that they say would threaten collective bargaining rights. Meanwhile, smaller groups of activists and tea party members rallied outside the state Capitol against a variety of proposals that would eliminate tax exemptions, tax pensions and cut school funding, among other things.
The protests likely will become common now that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has rolled out his budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
Snyder's $45.9 billion budget proposal, detailed last week, has upset many people for many reasons. Among them, it will cut school funding and get rid of many personal tax breaks while attempting to lower taxes paid by many businesses.
Snyder's administration has said it's a tough but necessary plan for shared sacrifice as Michigan tries to rebound from long-standing economic and state government budget problems, including a projected $1.8 billion shortfall for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.
Many protesters, however, said they thought Snyder's proposal was an attack on unions similar to a bill being pushed by Wisconsin's new Republican governor. They said they were inspired to turn out by eight straight days of protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people to the Wisconsin Capitol.
Sally McNamara, a teacher with Adrian schools and member of the Michigan Education Association union, took advantage of a snow day in her district to join protesters in Lansing.
"I'm here to support my union brothers and sisters," McNamara said. "Without unions, there's be no weekends. There'd be no reasonable way to feed our families."
Temperatures were below 20 degrees in Lansing on Tuesday morning, but the sun was out and winds weren't very brisk.