Budget battle still looms for Michigan lawmakers as they return from break

The Michigan Legislature is returning from its hunting and Thanksgiving break this week, a session recess that’s been a long-standing traditionover the last several decades.

Now, lawmakers returning to Lansing are facing increasing pressure over unfinished budget business.

Since the budget was signed into law Sept. 30, Whitmer and Republican lawmakers have disagreed on whether the governor’s power to shift funding within departments administratively should be checked. Whitmer signed the state’s budget with 147 line-item vetoes worth $947 million and shifted $625 million within departments using the State Administrative Board.

Before the break, the administration and legislative leaders had made some progress on negotiating supplemental spending legislation, but those efforts were scuttled after Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, said he wouldn’t agree to a deal unless new terms for the governor’s powers are written into state statute.

Will the legislature and the governor’s administration be able to reach an agreement before the end of the year? That remains unclear, but inaction could have serious consequences for programs and departments whose funding remains up in the air.

Aside from the budget, here’s a few of the other issues lawmakers are planning to consider when they get back to Lansing:

Online gambling and sports betting

In October, the House revived efforts to legalize sports betting and online gambling in the state, passing 10 bills to allow internet gaming and sports betting for people 21 and older at casinos currently operating in Michigan.

The Senate Regulatory Reform Committee is set to continue that discussion this week.

Under the House bills, an 8.75 percent tax would be collected on sports bets, and the city of Detroit could also collect an additional 3.25 percent tax under the plan.

For non-sports online gambling, the tax rate would be phased in over time - starting between 4 and 19 percent in the first three years, rise to a range of 6 to 21 percent in the fourth year and be between 8 and 23 percent after five years. Taxes would be calculated based on how much money a casino generates from online gambling.

Although the House bills earned majority support, there was still hesitation from many Democrats and the Whitmer administration over concerns the change could negatively impact the School Aid Fund.

Shirkey recently told reporters he’s open to discussion on the issue.