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Michigan government shuts down, but does anyone notice?

October 1, 2009 |  1:01 pm

Burning midnight oil

Sleepy in Lansing …

The state of Michigan officially is having a 22-hour workday today, and lawmakers there are pretty exhausted after spending all night trying to overcome their budget standoff.

Admittedly, the budget gap they had to fill was a whopping $2.8 billion — hardly anything compared to California but still gulp-worthy. But after months of negotiations, weeks of hand wringing and days chugging back burned coffee, the Legislature — which had been wrestling with deficits for the majority of the 21st century — simply couldn’t stop snarling at one another long enough to meet the Oct. 1 deadline.

That meant the state technically shut down at midnight. For about two hours, nonessential services were closed.

Thankfully, it happened while most people in the state were asleep, rather that when work crews were laboring on road repairs or someone was trying to get a driver’s license renewed. By around 2:30 a.m., lawmakers did resolve most of their issues — which means deep cuts nearly everywhere, including Medicaid and funding heading to help cities — and gave themselves a 30-day extension to figure out the remaining issues.

Big sticking point: education funding. The budget fight’s still not over.

And consider this: Michigan residents saw their government shut down for four hours in 2007. It’d be interesting to see how fast lawmakers would act, if they didn’t get paid until a budget was passed.

 — P.J. Huffstutter

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Photo: Michigan lawmakers work into the night on a budget deal. Credit: Associated Press