The sheriff of Livingston County and others across the state are speaking out following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s line item vetoes in the state budget that will impact public safety.
The sheriffs of Oakland, Macomb, Kent, St.Clair and Washtenaw Counties sent a letter to the governor, expressing disappointment in the line item vetoes made to the corrections budget and the state police budget. It says the cuts will adversely affect public safety standards for sheriff’s offices across the state, and locally. The letter goes on to say that making line-item vetoes to vital programming for public safety is not in the best interests to residents across the state and balancing the budget on the backs of locals is unacceptable. In the corrections budget, the county jail reimbursement program was eliminated, which reimburses county jails for housing felons who would otherwise be housed in state prison facilities. The letter states two of four line-item vetoes in the State Police budget will impact local law enforcement agencies on a large scale basis. The Secondary Road Patrol or SRP program’s restricted funds were cut, which the letter says will result in the loss of approximately 120 deputies patrolling secondary roads in the state, making communities less safe. The other cut was related to training for law enforcement agencies.
The line item vetoes will also be felt locally. Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy told WHMI he’s not really impressed with the vetoes and for some sheriff’s offices, it will result in significant reduction of road patrol. For Livingston County, it translates to around $85,000 and could result in the possible layoff of one deputy. If the budget holds true, Murphy says he would hope the county Board of Commissioners would authorize funding to avoid a layoff and he feels strongly that would happen. For the diverted felons, it would mean around a $300,000 loss in funding and Murphy says in a normal day, there is no way they could make up that kind of money. He says if a judge has an opportunity to send someone to prison or county jail, they’re referred to as diverted felons or straddle cell offenders. If someone ends up in county jail, then the Sheriff’s Office can basically send the state a bill for housing them – stressing it is not the true cost but it helps and the state is actually saving money by having the deal with county sheriff’s for diverted felons. Murphy says quite frankly, he doesn’t care if they house them locally – adding if the guidelines say they can go to prison, then send them to prison because it’s fewer headaches for them.
Murphy said the only good thing is that they just recently re-bonded the jail expansion project, which allows them to take in more federal inmates. In doing that, Murphy says they were hoping to pay off the interest early and the bond a little bit early, and then put the extra money toward that. Murphy says his pitch to the county board would be to shift that funding so they don’t have to lay anybody off in the jail. At that point, Murphy says he would be lobbying judges to start sending the diverted felons who typically would have went to prison, to prison so they don’t clog up the county jail. He says if the governor wants to play those games, he’ll be happy to lobby judges to do so, and hopefully they will, and then they can clog up MDOC and put it right back in her lap. Murphy says he doesn’t know where anything will go and it’s just political gamesmanship at this point which is really unfortunate – adding he thinks the Legislature did their job and for the most part everything was bi-partisan the way that it went. Murphy concluded by saying honestly, this was just a big middle finger to everybody because the Governor just whacked a bunch of stuff and it’s very unfortunate.
Governor Whitmer’s spokesperson Tiffany Brown provided the following statement to WHMI:
The executive budget Governor Whitmer presented reflected the right priorities to protect families and public health. The budgets from the Republican legislature were fatally flawed. Governor Whitmer had to make tough decisions to make sure families have access to the critical services that they rely on every day. While the budgets have been signed, there is still more work to do. It’s important that differences are put aside and all parties get serious about mending some of the glaring holes that are in the budget that impact areas like public safety. Line item vetoes can only fix so much – it will take Republicans and Democrats working together to get it done. The Governor announced that she is working with Senator Curtis Hertel on a supplemental package that will fund key priorities to protect education, public safety, and public health. If Republicans want to come back to the table to negotiate changes to the budget she signed, she is ready to talk.
The complete letter sent to the Governor from the Sheriff’s Offices is attached. (JM)