Armed protesters, unemployment, the economy, and the latest polls. Guests Chad Livengood and Christine Greig

May 4, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, May 4, 2020

  In this episode:

  • Michiganders back Whitmer, Republicans sue
  • Protesters, defacto terrorists, and Republicans in the legislature
  • House Minority Leader Christine Greig on legislating through the pandemic
  • Chad Livengood on the growing economic crisis in Michigan
  • Municipalities expected to lose millions as university events are canceled
  • The latest in our upcoming elections
  • Final thoughts
  • Transcript

Note: we recognize that words like terrorist, assault rifle, and brandishing have specific legal definitions that are different from how these words are commonly used by people outside of the Open Carry movement. This means that the people in featured image for this episode were not technically terrorists and they were not brandishing assault rifles. This distinction in law allows them to avoid penalty while enjoying the benefits of intimidating the people around them. These people are defacto terrorists because that’s what they are in fact, if not in law.

Nobody cares about the distinction between a hebophile and a pedophile, and nobody cares about the distinction between domestic terrorists and the people in this picture. ~cb

Jump to:

Michiganders back Whitmer, Republicans sue

 

.@MiSenate @Mi_Republicans have said to @GovWhitmer @MichSOS @JocelynBenson @MIAttyGen @DanaNessel, 'If you want to use that law, we're going to take it away from you. As long as you are in office, we will make your office smaller.' #MiLegClick To Tweet

 

 

Protesters, defacto terrorists, and Republicans in the legislature

 

 

 

 

 

House Minority Leader Christine Greig on legislating through the pandemic

 


(Click here for Pamela Hornberger official GOP House website)

Chad Livengood on the growing economic crisis in Michigan

 

 

Municipalities expected to lose millions as university events are canceled

Of the $81.8 million in net new economic impact tied to football, the study from AEG says $53.7 million is a direct economic impact (ticket sales, parking, concessions, food, accommodations, retail, etc), while $28.1 million is indirect impact (spending throughout the local economy from the direct expenditures). ~Source

 

The latest in our upcoming elections

 

 

 

 

Final thoughts

 

 

 

Brian G. Jeffs, 1st President, MOC, Inc.

It’s true that open carry has many advantages: a faster draw, a larger caliber handgun and greater round capacity; sure it’s been shown to deter crime, and it is immensely more comfortable to carry in warm weather, but it is much more than that. Open carry brings gun ownership out of the closet. It shows your friends and neighbors, your state and your country that you are not afraid of taking on the responsibility of protecting yourself and the ones you love from evil. Open carry is a visible expression of our natural right to self preservation. Open carry makes a statement that we are not afraid to stand up to the “politically correct” ideology that has created a nanny state, where the government is there to help us if we just do as they say, and a pox on anyone that disagrees. Open carry can lead us out of this stupor and deliver us once again to the days when a man could stand tall and be proud of his community, his state, and his country. When you open carry you are saying to the world, I’m my own man, I’m able and willing to defend myself, my family, and if need be my community, my state, and my country. It also states that I’m willing to stand up and speak truth to authority. It’s shameful that we as law abiding citizens must stand up to authority, the very authority that we have empowered, when questioned about our lawful right to openly carry a firearm. But stand up we must. The open carry of a firearm speaks volumes and it’s says much more than just open carry.

 

 

 

Transcript

Walt Sorg  00:00

The presenting underwriter of the Michigan Policast is progress Michigan providing a strong, credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable and assists in the promotion of progressive ideas.

 

Priorities USA Ad  00:15

I think that it was incredibly reckless. And I think that there are a lot of people who should understand all of these pieces but maybe don’t, including some editorial boards in our state. That was political theater.

 

Walt Sorg  00:28

It was in fact a theatrical double feature gun toting terrorists trying to storm the State House and Senate in a compliant legislature enacting toothless political statements that had nothing to do with protecting us from COVID-19 This is the Michigan Policast. We’re all about Michigan politics and policy and the National pandemics impacting our pleasant peninsulas. I’m Walt Sorg, and Yes, I may be on zoom, but I am wearing pants today.

 

Christine Barry  00:52

I’m Christine Barry zooming in studio awesome in Corona and I wear the pants on this podcast. The Jackass Brigade showed up with assault style rifles to intimidate lawmakers in Lansing. Governor Whitmer tells the legislature to take their political games and shove them. Justin Amash thinks he can be our next president and removing carefully and thoughtfully toward re engaging Michigan’s economy. So in other words, while it’s just another week chaos in Michigan,

 

Walt Sorg  01:20

like all state and local governments, Michigan is facing a looming crisis in funding basic services as a result of the pandemic. We’ll get some details from Crain’s Detroit, business writer, Chad Livengood, and also talk about the chaos in the Capitol with the House Democratic Leader Christine Gregg, for purposes of this week’s patch will be Christine at number one, Christine. So Christine number one, we have to begin with the chaos of the Capitol last Thursday. 50 years ago when I was working for the legislature, they installed thick Plexiglas screens and the visitor galleries of the House and Senate. That was to provide some protection against a lunatic with firearms. Little did they know that 50 years later, they have a whole bunch of lunatics with a firearm show up and those were crashes. Were never More needed than they were last week.

 

Christine Barry  02:02

It was crazy.Well, well let’s start with the latest polling that shows where Michiganders stand in terms of the leadership through this crisis. This is hard reality that we’re all facing right now. Our friends over at Progress Michigan have released their monthly Michigan lake effect poll. It shows that those goofball protesters slash de facto terrorists up at the Capitol. They might be loud and they might be good at getting media coverage. What they represent is very much in the minority.

 

Walt Sorg  02:30

You know, you start with the approval ratings for who’s doing a good job or bad job handling the pandemic the coronavirus, and Donald Trump was upside down 44% approved 50% disapprove which is right in line with his general approval rating in the state. Meanwhile, Gretchen Whitmer’s job on handling the Coronavirus 58 – 36 positive and when it comes to who do people trust to handle the outbreak the most given the choice of the governor, the republican led legislature or President Trump Whitmer 53% the legislature 15% Trump 24% and 8% not sure. Clearly people like the job the governor is doing. She is representing the majority in the state, although quite honestly, she said during several of the news conferences she held last week. She’s not looking at the polls. He’s strictly dealing with this as a health issue. And I think people are responding to that.

 

Christine Barry  03:22

I think you’re right. I think the I think it’s indicative that the messaging from the republicans is not working for them. It’s heavy anti Whitmer, it’s heavy pro business, but it’s weak on science data and helping people affected by COVID-19. And I don’t think it’s working. On the other hand, every time governor Whitmer comes up to talk about what’s happening with the pandemic. She talks about the best science, the best data, the epidemiology, the best data that is there and available. So I think that’s working for people and like I said last week, Walt, there are so many people who have been affected by this I mean, you know, you and I have lost people we’ve known I’ve had two funerals I haven’t been able to go to people just are affected. And I don’t think that despite the economic hardship that many people are going through, I don’t think the pro business messaging is working quite the way that the Republicans had hoped.

 

Walt Sorg  04:16

At the heart of this, though, is Donald Trump’s message that really isn’t all that bad and things are getting better. That message isn’t selling because one people don’t believe him generally, and two, they really don’t believe them on the virus. When asked how concerned people were about the long term economic impact of the virus in Michigan, 62% said they were extremely concerned 26% so they were they were somewhat concerned so that adds up to 88% concerned On the economic front, and the feelings about the health care’s is just as important. When asked if how people felt about reopening Michigan in the social distancing measures, people were asked to use support or oppose these protesters support was 25% opposed 62%. So every question back up the governor’s go slow, go cautious approach to how we handle this virus. Yet the people who get the attention and they’re still on the news to this day, it’s been four straight days of coverage of these Yahoo’s outside the Capitol brandishing assault weapons.

 

Christine Barry  05:13

Well, it has some of that coverage I have to say, though, is a good thing. It’s not good in the sense that I think it makes them look bigger than they are. But it is good in the sense that we’re finally asking questions again, like should you really be able to carry these weapons into the Capitol? You know, that’s a dumb thing to have to be dealing with. Of course, the answer is no. It’s a terrible imagery. It’s a dumb way to approach things in terms of people being all close together and not wearing masks or if they’re carrying an assault rifle or assault style rifle. They are wearing masks this time, but I’m sure it’s not from COVID. It’s just to intimidate. And it also opens us up because of that. It also opens us up to some conversations about what domestic terrorism really is. We both know terrorism is the unlawful act of I don’t know, violence or intimidation against civilians to get a certain political end, right. It’s not unlawful, what they did because it’s legal, but it’s de facto terrorism. And so in some ways, I think the media coverage is good, because we’re finally talking about these things.

 

Walt Sorg  06:23

One of the other more telling questions I saw asked online and you don’t see a whole lot of smart stuff online, but this was one of them. What if most of those protesters had been people of color had been black men brandishing rifles brandishing assault weapons? What was the response within then, from the general public and from law enforcement? And it’s a very, it’s a very important question to ask.

 

Christine Barry  06:45

It is, and I think people who don’t want to say it out loud, know that it would have been much harder to be a person of color carrying a weapon, or even just protesting in that building. It would have been much harder on them

 

Walt Sorg  06:58

before we move on from this point. We should get to the top lines. They did ask the horse race questions on the election coming up in November. The first question was for President Joe Biden 50% Donald Trump 42% 8% unsure for the United States Senate Gary Peters has a nine point lead over john James 46 to 37. Yet john James as the guy’s name 4637 17%. Those still undecided. We’ll be talking more about that campaign as we go on. Some of the other things relating to this protest the Republicans, one of the things that they pass, which was just pure theaters the governor was talking about it was authorizing the legislature to sue the governor over the emergency declaration, which is entertaining, I guess, but I don’t think it’ll get through the courts nearly in time for it to be a cogent point. My guess would be that the courts would say, by the time they get to it, it’s a moot point because of the emergency. The emergency order is ended. And they passed some legislation which was interesting because it would have had no effect. At all Michigan’s Constitution requires it for a bill to take immediate effect, it has to have a two thirds vote in both the House and the Senate for immediate effect and be signed by the governor. And without that it doesn’t go into effect until April of the following year. Well, the bill passed district, the governor of her powers didn’t have immediate effect. So hadn’t gone through and had gone through without a veto from the governor, which of course, is automatic, it would be better because it wouldn’t have gone into effect until April of 2021.

 

Christine Barry  08:28

You know, the republicans again, ever since the election have looked at Whitmer and Benson and Nessel and said, if you’re going to use that law, we’re going to take that law away from you. And that’s exactly what they’re trying to do now with this bill that they just tried to pass but, you know, it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be I don’t think they’re going to prevail in the courts on that. emergency powers law. They might but the 1945 law says that she can Keep the state of emergency in place as long as she wants. There was a 2006. law that amended that that said, in respect to that law, you can’t seize the firearms of lawful gun owners. But the 1976 law that the legislature keeps talking about specifically says that it’s not supposed to change anything in the 1945 law. Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I will definitely link to all those things. There’s a lot of conversations going on about it. Now. That’s just my take on how that would go.

 

Walt Sorg  09:34

Well, as we’ve learned at the federal level with William Barr, it is important to have the Attorney General on your side, and that’s one thing the governor’s got here. The other thing she’s got to is the science. We’re talking about how she emphasizes that this is not about politics. This is really about the data and about what’s safe for Michigan,

 

Priorities USA Ad  09:51

and we are driven by the data. We are driven by the outcomes for our people. We’re driven by the hospitalization rate And as of right now, we’ve lost almost 300 people in the last 72 hours. We are not out of this crisis. And it is important that we do. We take that we do the next right thing. And it’s going to be driven by the data. And it’s going to be driven by medical experts, not political polls, not political posturing and not political maneuvers, like you saw yesterday at the Capitol.

 

Walt Sorg  10:24

You know, just to be logical this thing to, there’s nothing in it for the governor to piss off people unnecessarily with all of these shutdowns, and it’s irritating everybody. Nobody likes it. She certainly doesn’t like it. It’s also creating a huge problem for her because it is destroying the state’s budget. These are not things she does because they’re fun, or because she’s power crazy. I’ve known Gretchen Whitmer a long, long time, and this is killing her inside but she knows that of the two terrible choices that she could make. The better of the two bad options is the shutdown. And I give her a lot of credit for having the guts to stand up to the crowd stand up to the people who The weapons stand up to the republicans that say, Look, I’m going to do what’s right. If it hurts me politically, so be it. If it doesn’t hurt me politically great, but I’m just going to do what I think has to be done to protect the state.

 

Christine Barry  11:11

Yeah, and I think the more that people show up with their, their guns and their, you know, military surplus gear and their big signs that say, tyrants get the rope, the better she actually looks, because it looks like she’s standing up to that, even though I, I don’t think that that would affect her one way or another. But in the eyes of, I think the larger population, like Wow, that’s a tough governor to stand up to that. That’s what I kind of I kind of get that impression. They’re making themselves look worse.

 

Walt Sorg  11:44

Absolutely. And it’s really helping her helping her national profile in a lot of ways. With the exception of Governor Cuomo in New York, she’s probably getting more national airtime than any state political leader in the nation, which is amazing for somebody who has been governor of a state now for less than two years. but that’s been the case and she’s being treated well. She was on CNN again over the weekend. Now Jake Tapper’s program along with Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. The final note on this chapter, I think, is the fact that Gretchen Whitmer now has a bobblehead coming out a group called cause. veiled is issuing bobbleheads of governors with a portion of the proceeds going to support first responders which I think is pretty funny. I can’t wait to get my Gretchen Whitmer bobblehead for the for the mantle.

 

Christine Barry  12:29

I know there’s no bling on it. There’s no Big Gretch but it’s a it’s a cute little thing.

 

Walt Sorg  12:35

I’m looking forward to our next Ingham County Democratic Party fundraiser. She always attends those of course because she is from Ingham County. She’s been a part of the party here for a long time. She’s going to catch a lot of flack over big gretch and I can’t wait.

 

Christine Barry  12:49

That’s adorable. Well, in the middle of all this, were democratic legislators who are being threatened on the outside by armed thugs and on the inside by Republican demands that they meet in the relatively close confines of the State House and Senate chambers to pass what amounted to meaningless bills and resolutions. We’re joined by the House Democratic Leader Christine Greig from her home in suburban Detroit.

 

Walt Sorg  13:14

It would seem as though in the last few days things have really broken down between the governor and the legislature, the majority leaders in the legislature and governor Whitmer should war with the republicans right now. Does it feel that way to you?

 

Christine Greig  13:26

Well, yesterday certainly felt like that. When we were asked to vote on bills that we had barely seen the changes to before they were brought on the floor, no open debate. The legislature is not even meeting and opening its doors to remote participation, like every other branch of government. So it’s been really frustrating. I don’t feel like the legislature is doing its job and, and the fact that we couldn’t come to an agreement, the republicans couldn’t come to agreement with the governor is really frustrating.

 

Walt Sorg  13:53

One of the things that’s really baffling about all the demonstrations that you’re seeing on the front lawn and the blocking of traffic and everything The polling shows that most of the people in Michigan are definitely behind the governor definitely behind your position. Yet, it’s as though the the demonstrators are pulling the chain of the majority.

 

Christine Greig  14:10

Absolutely. I mean, that is exactly how it feels we hear from our constituents. And, you know, obviously, nobody’s happy about this, but everyone understands it. professionals that are telling us, we really need to stay home to be safe. And when we’re ready to start getting back into work, we have to do it competently and safely. And Republicans seem to be tone deaf to that people invading the Capitol grounds basically not even paying attention to social distancing not wearing masks, frankly, bringing weapons and racist signs and Confederate flags. That’s not the Michigan I know. And it does seem very tone deaf and just against everything we’re seeing in polls from across the state.

 

Walt Sorg  14:52

Now the governor’s got the power legally and she’s got the spine to deal with the current emergency regardless of what happens really on the floor of the house in the Senate. But down the road, you’ve got to deal with an economic crisis for both the state and for the people of this state that it’s going to absolutely demands bipartisan cooperation at some point. How can things be mended so that we can deal with the budget crisis you’ve got coming up in just a matter of weeks?

 

Christine Greig  15:15

Well, you know, that’s our responsibility. It’s all of our responsibilities, elected leaders to get together and really dig in. Again, I’m just going to go back to the fact that we’re not meeting right now that we have not approved temporary rules for remote participation. We need to do this. So our subcommittees on appropriation can get together and start having these discussions, not only about trying to fill the gaps in our current budget, but how to use federal stimulus dollars and then how to look at what the state situation is, do we have huge holes to backfill? Is there opportunity for federal dollars or do we need to look to additional revenue somewhere,

 

Walt Sorg  15:52

just as a matter of logistics and maintaining social distancing, I was talking to Senator Hertel not long ago, the Constitution requires the The legislature meet in Lansing. But it doesn’t say were in Lansing, you could easily move to the Lansing center or some other large facility where you could still space out. That’s probably a bit term where you could still be spaced out physically and get your work done yet there doesn’t even seem to be any talk of doing that. It’s these these shows of bringing people in a few at a time into the chambers, and endangering not just yourselves, but also your staff,

 

Christine Greig  16:26

regardless of that point of working off site and Lancey, but through remote participation, you can have the chair in Lansing in the seat of government, and then just allow remote participation from the members. So we can do that through temporary rules in the House and in the Senate. And we’ve seen Pennsylvania do this, Wisconsin do this. You know, there’s a lot of different ways, whether it’s off site in a larger space or actually through using technology to get this done, but the republicans are again, tone deaf and not responding to the challenges of the day and using the tools that everybody Seems to be

 

Walt Sorg  17:01

it would appear that our unemployment in Michigan right now is reaching 20 to 25%. What are you suggesting we do to get out of this hole faster that we did last time last year, we took literally a decade to recover from something that wasn’t nearly as serious in terms of the economic impact. What can we do to hasten our recovery?

 

Christine Greig  17:20

Well, the number one thing is to make sure as we reopen, we are doing it safely so that we don’t have to close up again. So we need to have a sustained and as we transition into full economic activity, we’ve got to get back to normal life and that’s getting our schools opened, our restaurants open, you know, even entertainment, all of that daily life, we have to really focus on that and get it up and running as much as possible. We also have to make sure that we’re helping businesses in the transition to that. So you know, when a business starts re engaging, they may not be able to hire their employees at 40 hours a week. So we have to make sure that we help them With the transitional funding, and we prorate the hours on the employment side as they build up their wages on the employer side, I think that can also help re engage much more quickly.

 

Walt Sorg  18:11

When the governor was running and when you were running in the last election, there’s most of the talk was around our infrastructure, specifically the state of our horrible roads, and also the state of our schools, which have been getting weaker and weaker over the last few years. How can we respond to that now knowing full well that tax revenues are just going down the tubes right now?

 

Christine Greig  18:29

Well, this is the time for innovation, right. And we have seen some really incredible efforts, particularly in our school environments on how to do distance learning. Well, now it’s not equal for everyone. And we have to we have to address that. But as we go through this rebuilding of our state, let’s look at ways to do things better. And as we have to start over and rebuild, that there’s a lot more that we can do in terms of improving our technology infrastructure, our water systems, our roads. We may not be able Do it as fast. But I think we can do it a little differently now that we have to actually rebuild as we go.

 

Walt Sorg  19:05

Thanks to term limits only a small handful of the 148 members of the legislature were here. The last time Michigan went through some of this is this lack of muscle memory, institutional memory, going to hurt the debate?

 

Christine Greig  19:17

Absolutely, it always helps to have experience but I found that folks that have served in the past are always willing to lend a hand and, you know, expand that brain trust. But if there were, you know, more deeper relationships, I think in the legislature serving, currently serving and sitting on appropriations and working out policy, it would help term limits has hurt in that development at that skills base to get through these times, and have those experiences to bring to the table.

 

Walt Sorg  19:47

One of the pluses that you have and your colleagues have during this pandemic is you’re spending most of your time at home, talking when you do talk with other people. You’re talking to people outside of the Lansing bubble. What kind of feedback Are you getting from your own constituents? You right in the heart of the pandemic in Southeast Michigan. What are you hearing from them?

 

Christine Greig  20:04

You’re right, I do live right in the heart. I actually live right on the border. I live at Eight Mile Road, the border of open county in Wayne County. So you know, right in right in the middle of this, you know, people want to be safe, they want to be healthy, and they also want to work. There is a tremendous need for unemployment assistance. Right now. We’re getting a lot of calls and questions on how to navigate that the state of Michigan is one of the largest employers in the country right now, with these processing over a million payments every couple of weeks. It’s a tremendous burden and strain on our systems. But we have to keep fighting, we have to get more people through that system. So I’m hearing a lot about that. I’m also hearing a lot of support, that we want to make sure that we are taking care of our frontline workers, that the essential workers, health care workers, first responders, hearing incredible stories of people coming to each other’s AIDS. I have a friend who’s also in it In our hotline for the city of Farmington Hills and he tells me of all these great efforts of our health care workers at Beaumont, Farmington Hills in particular, I’m hearing a lot of great stories too. But you know, everyone’s looking forward. They know there’s a beginning, middle and an end to this. They’re really looking for that end, and they’re really looking to support each other get there, but they need they need government there. They need us investing in government services for when we have times like this, that they have some assistance getting through these tough times.

 

Walt Sorg  21:29

Representative Greig, thanks for joining us on the Policast. Appreciate your thoughts.

 

Christine Greig  21:32

Thank you. Thanks for having me Walt.

 

PSA  21:41

you have questions about the 2020 census, and we have answers. Let’s go to caller number one. Well, what is it? Good question. It’s a simple questionnaire that counts everyone living at your address on April 1. next caller?  So why should I take it because the guides how billions and fun gets used each year for things like clinics, fire stations, public transit, and so much more. Caller three, go ahead.  What’s it has to do with representation?  Well, your state’s population determines the number of seats it has in the US House of Representatives for the next 10 years. Next, how do you take it? Just look for an invitation in the mail starting March 2020, then completed online by phone or by mail. Let’s go to our final caller. Is my information safe?  Yes, it can’t be shared with anyone. It’s the law. Thanks for joining us. And don’t forget to shape your future. Start here. Learn more at 2020census.gov.

 

Jared Kushner  22:40

I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed. So the Gov the government, federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story. And and I think that that’s really, you know, what needs to be told.

 

Walt Sorg  22:52

Yeah, it’s a great story. All right, is told to us by the favorite sudden law of the current president, but I think maybe my reaction was summed up by A statement from a previous president

 

George W Bush  23:02

so we can stabilize the situation. Again, I want to thank you all for and brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.

 

Walt Sorg  23:09

Yeah, Jared, you’re doing a heck of a job and so’s your father laws. Well,

 

Christine Barry  23:12

well, well, the president’s son in law may be pleased that the United States leads the world in COVID-19 confirmed cases with more than 1.2 million and growing, or that the death toll also leads the world that approaching 70,000 others are a little less sanguine. There’s a growing economic catastrophe. Michigan unemployment is skyrocketing with 1.25 million new unemployment claims in the last month. The system is overwhelmed and the state’s Treasury is going dry. First, the challenge processing all of those applications for help from the newly unemployed.

 

Walt Sorg  23:49

Yeah, I think the state workers that are working on this like it kind of a bad rap when you think about the numbers 1.25 million new applications in the last four or five weeks. Let’s They do 95% of them perfectly. That’d be a really good success rate with with that many, but 5% of 1.25 million is still 62,500. Yeah, people are gonna be upset. And it’s probably higher than that. Because every everybody’s situation is different. I was talking with an expert on that, who was explaining to me that, for example, somebody who’s a white person in a restaurant, in order to collect your full unemployment benefit, you’ve got to have a demonstration of how much money you made. Well, what if your restaurant was under reporting your tips, and you had a fight over how what’s your actually your base was going to be? That’s the sort of thing that takes time it takes people to do it. They’re completely understand for this kind of a challenge because the volume went up by so much so fast, there’s no way they could get going. I’ve talked with a lot of people who had absolutely no problem at all collecting unemployment, but they had relatively standard cases. And I give them a lot of credit for doing as well as they’re doing, despite the problems that you’re reading about in the paper. cranes reported in the week going into April 30. Over 80,000 Unemployment Claims filed that week, the state has already paid billions in benefits to more than 1 million people. So there is a lot of success there. But you know, even a small number of people going without is painful. because like you said, the numbers are so big a small percentage of a big number like that is a lot of people who are in pain. It’s sort of like getting upset with the lifeguards at the beach, because they didn’t, weren’t totally prepared for the tsunami that came in and crushed the village. Well, you don’t get the beach prepared for it day after day after day and all of a sudden when it does happen, you’re gonna have a mess. And that’s what’s happened with the unemployment situation. Even as the demand for government help grows though tax revenues are shrinking. It adds up to a budget crisis for Michigan that likely will surpass the channel just Michigan faced during the Granholm years as GM went into bankruptcy. I talked with Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business, who keeps a close eye on the state’s budget?  Chad all the commotion right now is over guns in the gallery and people protesting outside without masks and all that. But the real battle is still ahead of us on the budget and the budgets but absolutely decimated. Does anybody know really how bad it is? Are they just guessing at this point?

 

Chad Livengood  26:18

We don’t have a total firm number yet. But the estimates right now for this fiscal year, is $3 billion. And so that would be spread across both the school aid fund which is 14 billion and the 11 billion roughly general fund, that’s a big chunk of money. It’s going to be have to be made up somehow, either through new revenue or cuts. And then you start cutting general fund money you start having to cut matching federal funding, federal funding. So there’s there’s a whole trickle effect that’ll happen down in state government, when you start sort of trying to piece together the savings needed on the general fund side for the Overall $65 million budget.

 

Walt Sorg  27:02

as we learned during the Great Recession, this isn’t the sort of thing that hits us all at once. It just keeps getting worse and worse for sales tax than income tax then property taxes but already it’s it it’s it’s certainly hitting the gas tax because nobody’s driving.

 

Chad Livengood  27:15

Yeah, nobody’s driving and so that’s gonna make it a little harder to fix the road. So when you when you start having a gas tax depleting of gas taxes based on per gallon usage, and, and so when you see these, these prices of dollar 19 gas, most of that is actually just tax at this point, literally on a per gallon basis. So there’s a whole host of things. I mean, income tax, obviously is, is the first one when you have a 25% unemployment, there’s going to be a huge hit to that. And then there’s also just, even though we’re out spending more money in grocery stores than ever, in the last eight weeks, we’re not out buying cars and we’re not out buying new Whirlpool washing machines and that will add is really the big driver in in sales tax that has a huge impact. When now you have all these who are employed, they don’t go back immediately. We don’t have any kind of anything that looks like the economy we had in February, then it’s just going to continue to linger on for months, maybe even years.

 

Walt Sorg  28:21

What are legislators saying what’s going to be the first thing to go? Is it going to be across the board? Are they going to cut entire programs? Have they even begun to think about how they’re going to respond to this?

 

Chad Livengood  28:31

They’ve been working quietly on this same Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said last week that he is he’s tasked the sub committee appropriations chairman of all the subcommittees that handle individual state government budgets, or the State Department budgets rather, he’s tasked them with with coming up with scenarios of 1020 and 30%. Across the board cuts and what would you cut if you were to just take 1020 or 30% out of the department Health and Human Service It says, which is but I use that as an example because it’s a it’s one of the bigger ones. It’s a $24 billion overall budget. It’s it’s one, it’s the biggest of them all in state government. And that’s going to be a really, really painful exercise. I mean, you know, the governor last week she she issued these temporary two week layoffs of about 3000 state workers and a savings of $5 million. So just kind of think about that in context of a even if it’s just a billion dollar budget deficit. That’s it. That’s that’s the proverbial drop in the bucket.

 

Walt Sorg  29:39

for local governments. It’s going to be compounded as well, because the state’s been cutting revenue sharing literally for the last 20 years. And that’s one of the first things usually that goes yet they’re struggling as well. And we could very well have another round of layoffs.

 

Chad Livengood  29:54

Yeah, there’s a couple issues going on with counties right now. The biggest ones, Wayne, Oklahoma Macomb, Kent, and to some lesser extent, Kalamazoo, Ottawa, Genesee, they’ve got a pot of federal funds, that is going to help them but they can’t spend any of it on anything appropriated by line item before March 31. This is the rules that have come down from the US Treasury Department that that can some members of the Congressional delegation and the governor are trying to go out there and get a reconsideration from from the Trump administration, because they that means they they if they appropriated X number of jobs and and money to pay for those jobs in March or last fall. They can’t use this money to backfill the loss of revenue that they’re they’re experiencing this also applies to city Detroit, it’s very, very dependent upon income tax and when you’ve got you know, people laid off in mass, that’s that’s obviously going to affect that. And so now Yeah, there’s a the the counties are always seen as the next place to go. Just to give you an example of how the magnitude of this crisis, the state as of last Friday, had spent $36 million of federal funds on personal protection equipment, PPE. For frontline, first responders, doctors, nurses, basically backfilling the the supply chain for the hospitals. The state spends 226 million just for counties on revenue sharing every year. So we just didn’t in six weeks time we surpassed in spending for this emergency response what we actually appropriate as a state to counties for revenue sharing in a single year. I mean, that’s it’s a really extraordinary amount. And just also for your listeners understanding the legislature itself spends $201 million a year on the general fund on its own operations. So, again, it gives you a real kind of glimpse into the magnitude of this budget crisis this paring down in Lansing right now.

 

Walt Sorg  32:19

Yeah, those are some of the things you see on line to the the common solutions. People propose that really rather perspective with the total numbers, the lottery money, which is a drop in the bucket for education, I think it’s like 7% of the education budget. And now you’re going to see a lot of posts I’m sure about well, what about all that marijuana money?

 

Chad Livengood  32:35

I have a real buzzkill for everyone here that that marijuana money is not going to do a lot of big impact. And last I looked at it, basically, at full scale of the industry. It’s like $36 million a year for roads. I mean, it literally wood wood wood repave less than 15 miles of freeway. In a year, and there’s a couple hundreds of miles so that needs to be need to be repaid. To me. It’s just the scale of it is not enough. And and so and then these these problems are going to ripple down. I mean, I live in McComb county and St. Clair shores. McComb county has 800 lane miles of road in poor condition as of last year, and and they’re, they’re, they’re chipping away at 30 or 40 miles a year. I mean, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be you know, 20 years at this rate. That was the dynamic four months ago, when the economy was roaring and we got this certain amount of money coming in for roads. Now you have a declining gas tax, you’re gonna have even less money coming through act 51. And the only thing that’s kind of actually, possibly the saving grace for roads in the next year or two is the governor’s bonding plan. That $3 billion that she wants She’s planning to borrow to spread over the next three construction cycles and starting this summer will inevitably end up betting sort of filling in the gaps where, where the the gas tax revenue is going to actually start declining.

 

Walt Sorg  34:16

It’s also going to create quite a few jobs.

 

Chad Livengood  34:18

Oh, sure, it’s actually going to turn into an economic stimulus plan. That was not intended to be an economic stimulus plan. And so and it’s interesting, like, when we did that, back in January, there was there was some people in the legislature that was saying, well, we don’t we don’t have the labor force for this. And this is irresponsible bonding. Well, actually, when like in times of, you know, bad economics, that’s the time to to borrow and go and and to create economic stimulus opportunities. So that that seems that’s that’s worked in the past and, and it might, it might be a real saving grace for some parts of the economy this year.

 

Walt Sorg  34:59

One final issue and that’s one of special interest, I would assume to Crain’s readers. And that is the unemployment compensation fund, which is gushing cash out right now with one and a quarter million people collecting all of a sudden, and a lot of that’s employer finance. We’ve got the special federal money that’s coming in temporarily. But for the long term that funds got to be really in a bad way.

 

Chad Livengood  35:19

Yeah, I’ve been trying to get get this nailed down with with the state there haven’t quite given me all the up to date data. But essentially, we had point $6 billion in the in the fund at the start of this year. And, and just for perspective, at the beginning of 2008, when Michigan had been suffering through, you know, five, six years really of an economic recession, and in the recession caught up with the rest of the country. We had like $40 million in the unemployment trust, but we had to borrow billions of dollars, which we literally just paid back in December. They are they was a seven year bond that the Snyder administration took out to smooth out that cost for all employers so that they wouldn’t get a huge tax increase in 2011 when when the recession, you know about debt bill came due. And and so now we’re at 4.6 billion. I was told that basically, as of last week, that they had spent out about 500 million of that since the beginning of this Coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing layoffs. But to your question, well, the bigger problem in the question is, how long will that last. And also, this is not like another time of unemployment, where businesses get assessed a tax increase to repay the fund. The difference now in this crisis is that the employers are not going to get a tax increase on their their their assessment for unemployment based on these claims, because under the governor’s Executive Order she has she has exempted them from that because the government is shutting down their business. And so it’s not a normal loss of business or normal layoff caused by economic conditions. It’s a layoff, it’s caused by the government’s action. So the The Hangover that will happen eventually is that there will be this major depletion of the unemployment Trust Fund, and then there’s not going to be a taxing mechanism to to replenish it that has been used in the past, it’ll be a very much longer return to that kind of level of solvency.

 

Walt Sorg  37:39

I suspect the only bright spot in the budget right now is liquor taxes. They’re probably going up through the roof.

 

Chad Livengood  37:45

I haven’t look at liquor taxes in a while. But yeah, that is obviously one area that has sustained it’s a it’s a business and it remained essential.

 

Walt Sorg  37:54

I’m doing my part at least.

 

Chad Livengood  37:57

Same here.

 

Walt Sorg  37:57

God bless and your quarantine birds coming Coming in very nicely too

 

Chad Livengood  38:01

Oh, thanks Walt, appreciate it.

 

Walt Sorg  38:02

Chad, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast.

 

Chad Livengood  38:05

Thanks for having me.

 

Walt Sorg  38:06

Christine. Number one, there are all sorts of Domino impacts on the state and local budgets, not just what’s going directly to the state budget, but what’s indirectly happening to the state budget and local budget. One very small example but big money, the impact on college towns, if college football doesn’t happen this fall. Back in 2015. The Anderson economic group did a study of the economic impact of football in Ann Arbor, which admittedly is a very big deal. What does having 100,000 people singing the victors on Saturday mean to an area’s economy. According to Andersen, they estimate that the relationship of ufm home football games including ticket holders visiting team attendees and visitors to the area that do not attend the games brought over 632,000 visitors from outside the harbor area and had a net economic impact of $81.8 million in the Ann Arbor area in 2013. of the $81.1m, $54.7m was direct economic impact meaning it was generated primarily from ticket sales parking concessions food and drink before and after the game accommodations and other retail and another 28.1 million in direct economic impact, which means that it was generated through the circulation spending through the local economy from the direct expenditures. Now admittedly university of michigan football is the biggest of the big deals in Michigan but you multiply that or you add into it the impact in Ann Arbor to East Lansing and then up in Mount Pleasant and Kalamazoo for the central and western games. You add into it the pro sports that aren’t being played in Detroit as bad as they are, they still attract a lot of people. And you add into it, theaters that are closed and live theater at Michigan State University. You’ve got the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts, which on a sold out night will generate between a quarter of a million and a half million dollars just in ticket sales for one show. It starts adding up and adding up and adding up. As we talked about with Chad about the only thing that’s going up right now is revenues from liquor taxes.

 

Christine Barry  40:00

It’s interesting how many different segments of each of these universities contribute to the surrounding areas economy and I didn’t look at the big professional sports just kind of looked at universities with MSU. The sports teams are responsible for more than 145 million in revenues to the surrounding area. But you still have a well and the facilities bring in other revenue as well because rent the facilities to do other things. But you still have the startup activity from the students who stay there to start their businesses. All of these different departments and different pieces of the the various universities brings in money for the surrounding area. And it isn’t just sports, although sports is the biggest it’s also these other things that have slowed or completely stopped during this time

 

Walt Sorg  40:57

by no nice lunch. We’ve had a construction boom in the last Few years of student housing right along the border of the campus on Michigan Avenue in Grand River Avenue, there’s going to be a lot of empty apartments in the fall. If the university doesn’t gear up for full in person classes again, I would be would not be surprised. But there are a lot of defaults on loans for the construction of those buildings just like that there’s hundreds if not thousands of new units that have been constructed in just the last half dozen years.

 

Christine Barry  41:25

And it’s gonna be huge domino effect.  So Meanwhile, in the world of politics, a few stories of note First up, Justin Amash thinks he can be elected President of the United States.

 

Justin Amash  41:42

The goal, of course is to get on as many ballots as possible up to 50. And I think that the Libertarian Party can either get on 50 ballots or get very close to getting on 50 ballots. And we intend to win this race. I mean, we’re it’s not a race for fun, as I’ve said many times, so we’ll continue to push and get on this. Many bounces possible because we can win this.

 

Walt Sorg  42:02

I think the guy’s delusional if he really thinks he can be elected President of the United States, but it sure does make life interesting over in Western Michigan, because you’ve now got an open congressional seat, the one that he is represented for the last few years. He’s always been controversial over there. And the polling right now indicates a slight democratic lien, although Peter Meijer, who I’m sure will be the Republican nominee has unlimited amounts of money, thanks to the family and thanks to the family’s connections, but it’s going to be a heck of a race now.

 

Christine Barry  42:30

I agree. It’s going to be much harder for the Democratic candidate. And then when you look at the Justin’s effect on the presidential race, you know, it’s hard to believe that Justin thinks he can be President. I think it’s more likely he sees this as a boost for himself and for the Libertarian Party, although bit surprised, like I think that’s just where he lands is the Libertarian Party. I don’t think he’s necessarily representative of everything. They say they’re representative of

 

Walt Sorg  43:00

Think his whole career has been to make a point, not to get the results, but just to make a point and get his story out there because the man absolutely will not compromise on anything that he thinks violates principles, which sometimes is a good thing. He was, after all, the first Republican or at least he was a Republican, then who voted in favor of impeachment of the President, which I give him credit for, because again, it was a matter of principle for him, but he is very ineffective because he just doesn’t understand how to function in a pluralistic society.

 

Christine Barry  43:29

The Art of compromise just completely escaped him. And you’re never going to be able to do anything without compromise unless you have this ridiculous majority. In some places, and even still, you still have some compromises you have to make even when you are completely the majority vote. Oh Justin’s doing for the libertarians is interesting, because he’ll be elevating down ticket races a little bit, I think, and if he really can get libertarians on the ballot in all 50 states, I think that that will affect some of those local races. I don’t think it’ll affect it at the congressional level. But when you’re talking about the local municipalities, maybe even some state races that will have an effect there.

 

Walt Sorg  44:15

What effect will it have in the swing states, especially when you consider Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin went for Trump last time by combined total of 75,000 votes? Is he enough on the ticket to help one or the other candidate? I’ve read stories in the last week or columns in the last week on both sides of the issue. Some say he’s going to help Trump. So I’m saying he’s going to help Joe Biden, nobody really knows till we get some polling.

 

Christine Barry  44:37

The only thing that I really feel confident about when it comes to that is that the Democrats have to get out the vote more than they’ve ever done before. That’s the only thing we can count on is getting out a bigger vote

 

Walt Sorg  44:50

and the republicans oh two which is why they are fighting anything that will make it easier to vote things like mail and voting and the voter suppression that’s going on in some states, Michigan. Won’t be nearly the issue because of the administration that we’ve got. And the laws that we have passed either by referendum or through the legislature, mostly by referendum, but in some of the states, like Georgia especially is going to be very critical Ohio. They’ve tried some voter suppression as well, North Carolina. Some of these states that could go either way where the voter suppression could make a big difference. political ads, a couple of interesting ones that are hitting the airwaves and or the internet’s in Michigan. Priorities USA is taking on Donald Trump right in the nose by focusing on his truly incompetent handling of the Coronavirus crisis.

 

Priorities USA Ad  45:35

Donald Trump said he would put America first and now he has the United States leads the world and Coronavirus cases more than 50,000 Americans death twice as many deaths as any other country over 26 million people have lost their jobs and it’s only getting worse downplaying the threats ignoring the experts refusing to prepare Donald Trump is failing America Priorities USA action is responsible for the content of this app.

 

Walt Sorg  46:06

That’s an interesting ad because it’s only been online now for a few days. And already the number of deaths has increased by more than 10,000. From what they cite in the ad, the number of unemployed is up by about another 5 million people and the numbers just keep getting worse and worse, we’re gonna have to update that every other day.

 

Christine Barry  46:22

One of the interesting stats I just heard was that within the last was it three months, America has already exceeded the number of deaths that we had in two decades and Vietnam.

 

Walt Sorg  46:34

Absolutely. You know, we had we lost at number three was 57,000, Vietnam and in our about last time I looked 65,000 and counting. I think we’re adding about 2000 deaths per day to the toll from the Coronavirus. And if people don’t think it’s serious, consider that how many changes went into our society after 3000 people died on 911. Multiply that by 22 at this point, four deaths from the crime Coronavirus. You think our lives aren’t going to change forever? Absolutely. They’re going to change forever. The League of Conservation Voters meanwhile is promoting senator Gary Peters and trying to keep his lead intact in Michigan. And they’re talking about about substance rather than doing an attack in on anybody specifically about how Gary Peters is getting the job done and has done more than just about anybody in responding to the poisoning of our water. With PFAS.

 

League of Conservation Voters  47:25

I was diagnosed with cancer and arthritis at the age of 28. When we learned about the PFS contamination in the water, we suspected there was a link and a lot of people are having similar problems for decades. No one was doing anything about it. That’s why I’m so grateful for senator Gary Peters. He’s fighting to get these contaminated areas cleaned up and making sure this never happens again. what he’s doing makes a difference. We need him to continue the fight. lcV victory fund is responsible for the content of this advertising.

 

Walt Sorg  47:56

This is kind of right out of the Gretchen Whitmer playbook instead of talking about the big emotional issues that get people all bent out of shape. Talk about the practicalities of clean water. She was fix the damn roads. He’s fixed the damn water on this and I think it’s very effective for him.

 

Christine Barry  48:11

Yeah, I agree that that was a woman from oscoda. Right around the old Wurtsmith Air Force Base. Yeah. I think in that I was born there. I was a

 

Walt Sorg  48:21

you survived

 

Christine Barry  48:23

Yes. I. Yeah. My father after he returned from Vietnam was stationed there for a while and I was I was born there.

 

Walt Sorg  48:31

So there’s a piece of trivia that nobody anybody cares about.

 

Christine Barry  48:36

Yeah. I was going to work in something about how the Ted Nugent cosplayers you know, don’t have the guts to go out and fight a Vietnam and yet here we are. You know, I don’t think I can make it work but these places are supposed to be really beautiful places. This is a great lakes state and here we’ve poisoned at all

 

Walt Sorg  48:58

it’s a frightening frightening Seen and it just hasn’t gotten any attention because of the overwhelming dominance of the virus on everything that we talked about. This, of course brings us to our what’s john James net saying this week, our weekly look at issues on which Republican Senate candidate john James has been silent. This week the armed assault on the Michigan State Capitol, it was condemned by dozens of political leaders from our state. Even Mike Shirky, the Senate Republican leader put out a statement denouncing the people outside with the rifles. But of course, it was praised by President Trump sort of he called these very good people, but they’re angry. You know, good people on both sides. That sounds familiar. It amazes me with Trump and with with people to back them including john James. They’re really playing both sides of this Coronavirus game very cynically, the president says I’m going to leave the decisions up to the governors. And at the same time he has Attorney General Barr saying, Well, I’m going to sue the governor’s if we don’t like what they’re doing on civil rights basis and we have the presidency. On one hand that I’ve got these guidelines for reopening the states and then on the other hand putting out tweets condemning states that follow those guidelines, or who violate those guidelines and open early, he supportive one day in opposition, the next day is playing both sides of it. And it’s really very sad. It’s not leadership, it’s pandering in the worst possible sense. And I give a lot of credit to the governors that are standing up to him in both parties. Larry Hogan from Maryland, Mike dewine, somebody in Ohio who I never thought I would like, I was doing a tremendous job there. Charlie Baker in Massachusetts is another one of them. And it goes on and on and on and on. The governors are doing a much better job than the man who is supposed to be leading the nation. As for john James on this issue.

 

Christine Barry  50:52

Okay, you know what we need with john James, we need a field researcher. Okay, there are people out there looking for Bigfoot. Nessie in the wall that surrounds the flat earth. And we need those folks to go and look for the Republican Senate candidate. Because I think one of those things has to be real.

 

Walt Sorg  51:09

Maybe we can get the Air Force to release videos of him like they did with the UFOs.

 

Christine Barry  51:13

It’s possible it’s possible. You know what, I think before we wrap up two things that I want to bring up one, first of all, to Donald Trump’s tweet, we do not negotiate with terrorists. So suck it. And two you know, you had mentioned Shirky condemned the people who had carried the rifles into the Capitol building, and that is technically correct. But if you look at all of the things he put out before he put out that statement, and this is leading up to the rally as well as during the rally. It’s hard to believe that that condemnation of that is anything but a forced hand politically, like he just had no choice, I think, other than to say that they were jackasses he invited people in He was talking to some of the same people. I mean, there’s pictures on Twitter, we’ll have you know, I’ll have all these links in the show notes. pictures of him talking privately where he asked, was it, Jonathan Oosting, I think he asked him, no it was Craig. It was Craig Mauger, who he asked to leave because it wasn’t for media. It was just a private session with these individuals. And in another picture, you see these same individuals right up next to the police shouting in their faces and trying to get in. So I don’t think Shirky is being genuine there about what he thinks about these people. And I don’t think that’s being said enough say, well, Shirky condemned it, but you know what, I don’t think that meant anything. I think he encouraged it up until the point where it got too hot to handle and then he condemned it.

 

Walt Sorg  52:46

You know there’s a lot of peer pressure on him as well. You know, I hang around the capital A lot have been here for a long, long time, and I’ve got several friends who work at the Capitol. A few members of the legislature are very close personal friends, several of the reporters staff people there. And I worked there for for 15 years for the governor and for the legislature. And I take it very, very personally to see that building invaded the way it was. And I think very personally to see my friends in imminent danger from a bunch of Yahoo’s who I I don’t think it would have taken much to shut them off and having shots fired. I worry about them.

 

Christine Barry  53:23

I do as well. And the and the open carry advocates are not helping anything. They come back and they say, you know, if the these people are safe, they’re not going to brandish their weapon about but now I don’t know these people.  You know, I don’t know who you are. I know the Michigan open carry website says certain things and it said completely different things when it was founded. It says certain things now about how we’re just trying to destigmatize open carry or whatever, but I don’t know who you are carrying that rifle. I don’t know that you’re a good person, if you would have put all those rights I was in the Capitol building and not brought any people. I don’t think people would have really felt threatened. But who are the people carrying those rifles? You know, and there were reports of rifles being pointed, actually legally brandished by legally I mean, if it met the legal definition of brandishing a weapon at people just around the surrounding area, and there are reports of one reporter got hit in the face with the butt of a rifle. So there was danger in there for real and it’s indefensible. It’s indefensible and open carry advocates need to just shut the EFF off about it.

 

Walt Sorg  54:38

Yeah, I’ve been to a lot of very large rallies at the Capitol over the years. We used to have an annual rally in the spring of motorcyclists who were protesting Michigan’s helmet law, which has since been repealed. We always knew that they were coming, but we were never apprehensive about it. We kind of look forward to it because it’s always a fun demonstration. We had demonstrations there. You know, if you go back long enough, back when George Wallace was running for president. There’s a Like 7000 people outside the Capitol for his speech, and there were concerns about violence but very small concerns. This one when these people show up, there are major concerns. And I know that the safety officials there, the Lansing police, the state police, and the Sergeant at Arms of both the House and the Senate are very concerned about what’s going on. It’s just a completely different atmosphere, and there’s no place for it in the society.

 

Christine Barry  55:24

I agree.

 

Walt Sorg  55:25

And on that happy note, that’s a wrap for this week’s Policast, our thanks to representative Christine Gregg and Crain’s Chad Livengood for joining us.

 

Christine Barry  55:33

Well, for more information on today’s subjects head on over to Michiganpolicast.com we always have all of our links and references up there in the show notes so you can see where everything’s coming from. We also welcome your feedback. You can email us at Mipolicast@gmail.com

 

Walt Sorg  55:50

and we’ll even have a picture of the grich how’s that sound? Thanks for listening. Another zoom conference is officially ending.

 

Political Ad  55:58

We’ve all seen it Day after day, hour after hour 260,000 words, praising himself on a scale of one to 10. How would you rate your response to this crisis? I’d read it at 10. I think we’ve done a great job complaining. We’ve gotten very little credit for the great job we’ve done attacking the press. I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question dangerous and delusional ideas. Supposing you brought the light inside the body you can which you can do either through the skin or in some other way that I see the disinfectant or knocks about in a minute, but almost no mention of the more than 60,000 lives lost to the Coronavirus. 60,000 lives more than the Vietnam War. 260,000 words more about himself than anything else. Mr. President. It isn’t about you. It’s about us.

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