Michigan House Democrats met to announce a reform package aimed at curbing the excesses of the Snyder Administration and House Republicans. The recent scandal over the FY 2012 multi-million dollar furniture budget which benefitted the governor’s cousin — for un-needed office furniture, is what sparked their ire.
House Democrat Brandon Dillon didn’t mince words:
“Governor Snyder told Michigan’s struggling parents, seniors and communities, that while they needed to do some heavy lifting to pay for his budget priorities, that there’d be shared sacrifice — and that we must have a “we, and not me” mentality. But, instead of shared sacrifice, Michigan’s middle-class families did all the lifting, while the governor’s family and political friends were protected. And, they unloaded more new un-needed office furniture onto the taxpayers of this state.”
The furniture budget was poised to be capped at $1 million during budget negotiations in 2011, for FY 2012, when sources connected with Gov. Snyder’s NERD Fund intervened on behalf of his cousin George Snyder, who is a partner at DBI Business Interiors which subcontracts with Haworth Furniture. Richard Baird, then working as “Transformation Manager” with the NERD Fund hooked George Snyder up with Michigan Budget Director, John Nixon. The cap was subsequently killed and the furniture budget has since, under Republican control, ballooned like roadkill on a hot day.
Haworth is among the top Michigan donors to the Republican Governors Association for the first quarter of 2014, as reported today by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. (The RGA has already spent nearly $300,000 in first quarter political ads in downstate Michigan markets.) The furniture maker gave no money to the Democratic Governors Association during that period.
House members Rep. Tim Greimel (D-29), Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-75) and Rashida Tlaib (D-06) are leading the charge for financial transparency reform. First, they propose to amend the budget for FY 2015 to cut unnecessary spending on office furniture, and then plan to introduce legislation that will shine a light on financial relationships among all high-level state employees, including the governor, his family and his staff.
Their proposals are as follows:
• Amend the 2015 budget to transfer $22 million from the General Fund to the School Aid Fund. This reflects the difference between the 2011 Haworth contract and its current authorization level of $41 million.
• Amend Michigan’s 2015 budget to include a $1 million limit on purchases of office furniture.
• Require all high-level state employees, including the governor and his staff, to report their income, assets, liabilities and any asset changes affecting them or their immediate family.
• Require all state contractors and bidders to disclose any family relationships that exist between corporate officers, owners and directors and senior officials in the Executive Branch of state government.
• Amend the Michigan Lobby Registration Act to include “an individual conducting business under the auspices of the executive offices of the governor or lieutenant governor.” This will require reporting the lobbying of those individuals and also subject them to current lobby limits for public officials.
Rep. Greimel pointed out that the $22 million number is significant — it represents the amount that the bloated furniture budget grew while Gov. Snyder slashed $1 billion from education, police and firefighting dollars, and raised taxes by $1.5 billion on retirees and middle-class families. After all, the governor’s $1.8 billion dollar business tax give-away to his special friends, the “job creators”, had to be paid for somehow. Geez, talk about “tax and spend!”
Greimel put it this way:
“These reforms will end out-of-control spending on state office furniture, and most importantly, put the savings where it belongs — in our state’s classrooms.”
Gov. Snyder and Michigan Republicans are being called-out to put their money where their mouth is, in much the same way the Obama Administration recently set-up Republicans to vote down equal pay — and reveal themselves to be the hypocrites they really are.
Katie Carey, press secretary for the Michigan House Democrats, readily admits that the legislation stands little chance of passage, acknowledging that the impetus is more to highlight the transparency problem. Gov. Snyder brushed it aside as election year politicking, but Haworth fired back with professionally crafted PR hyperbole, calling the accusations “baseless” and an “affront” to their employees.