Governor Granholm says the Legislature needs to act within two weeks on pension incentives to entice thousands of teachers and other public employees into retirement. She says that would save the state money and create job opportunities for younger workers and recent college graduates. But the governor says schools, in particular, must be able to act soon if they are going to be able to plan for retirements and hire new teachers.
"The moment is urgent and I, again, am strongly imploring the Legislature - if they want to take advantage both of the savings as well as the job opportunities for the young people who will be recruited by other states and other areas - this is the time to act," she says.
Granholm is also pressuring lawmakers to act quickly reform the state sales tax, though Senate Republicans have vowed repeatedly not to raise taxes.
The governor's plan is to lower the state's overall sales tax rate, but to add taxes for services. She would pump the money into the school aid fund, which has dropped more than 15 percent in recent years, once inflation is factored in.
Without reform, schools expect more budget cuts for next school year and, the governor says she'll veto any spending cuts for schools this year. But Northern Michigan school leaders caution against stalemate.
Granholm held a conference call Tuesday to showcase the plight of districts, including Suttons Bay and Kingsley.
Kingsley Superintendent Lynn Gullekson says his district has performed well, but more cuts next year could threaten the districts high standards. And he urged for quick decisions in Lansing. Last year the budget wasn't set until well after the school year started.
In Kingsley an early childhood education program was axed by the district because it was looking like the state wouldn't pay for it. In the end, lawmakers found the money, but not in time to revive the program.
"We're hoping to bring that back next year," Gullekson says. "But that's an example of how delayed decisions create a situation where all of us are in a lose-lose type situation."
A bipartisan group of freshman lawmakers wants the law to change so that - if a budget is not in place July first - lawmakers would be fined. That would require an amendment to the state Constitution.