‘Everything is broken’: Michigan lawmaker bemoans lack of transparency in budget process

If there is anything worse than bipartisanship, it is one-party rule.

MI House Democrats tweeted June 15, “Every voters’ voice deserves to be heard.”

But in Lansing, in reality, they’re not quite so inclusive.

Democratic leadership in Lansing has virtually shut Republican legislators out of the lawmaking and budget process. When challenged on it, they can cite times in the past when Republican leadership engaged in political tomfoolery.

It’s a fun little game. Except it’s not a game for people of Michigan, who are caught in the middle whenever half of the state is locked out of the policymaking process.

And it’s the people of Michigan who pay the price.

Leaders in Lansing seem to engage in politics for sport. Their trophy is the gavel. Sometimes Republicans win, sometimes the Democrats do. Ten million people lose.

Rep. Tom Kuhn, R-Troy, says when he worked in local government on smaller budgets, the process was transparent.

“It’s no wonder we have former legislators facing criminal charges – everything is broken here,” Kuhn told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “This process is wrong. It is not transparent or open and we are dealing with tens of billions of dollars.”

Kuhn is not a newcomer to public policy. He practiced law for more than 35 years and served for 12 years on the Royal Oak City Commission. He was also an Oakland County commissioner for four years.

“It’s shocking we can sit on a subcommittee and the night before we get the budget request. I am minority vice chair of Higher Education and Community Colleges Appropriations subcommittee and sit on the House of Appropriations,” Kuhn said. “We sometimes get six hours notice and know nothing about these budgets. We have no time to ask questions or thoroughly understand what is in the budget.”

Kuhn says he has been told by Democratic legislators that they are working for hours every day on the budget. Kuhn says they are doing it behind closed doors with special interests, while he and other Republicans are kept in the dark.

MIRS News reported June 14 that members of the media we notified that fiscal year 2024 spending targets had been reached, before the Republican caucus was informed.

If Democrats believe everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, surely that includes their colleagues in the Legislature, doesn’t it?

Democrats are not the sole party responsible for shenanigans at the Capitol. While the current cast of Republicans are frustrated by the lack of transparency, their previous leaders have also engaged in political antics that did not serve the people.

The acrimony between Michigan politicians has been so bad at times that it actually made news when they engaged respectfully. Who benefits from that dynamic?

The people of Michigan are stuck in the middle, like kids in the middle of their parents’ divorce. Except, based on our leaders’ actions, it seems like neither of them want the kids. The kids are, instead, used as bargaining chips by each side to get what they want from the break-up. If there is anything worse than bipartisanship, it is one-party rule.

The question is, who is going to blink first? Who will extend the olive branch?

What better time than the budget process to make sure every voice is heard? What better time to model transparency in government? And who better than our lawmakers to model for the people of Michigan how to use their words and work together?

If our leaders in Lansing won’t set the example, who will?

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email her at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.