This article appeared in the June 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Q: Director Walsh, what led you to take on the role of State Budget Director? In what way is this role important for the continued growth and competitiveness of Michigan businesses?
Walsh: Taking on the role of budget director was sort of a natural fit. Having served as the head of strategic policy for the governor for three years, when the governor approached me about taking on the role of budget director, it was a logical progression, since policy and budget are so closely tied together. Having served in the Legislature from 2008 to 2014, including time as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Michigan House of Representatives from 2011 to 2014, I had become very familiar with the budget making process and how the various committees impact the process. In addition, when I served as an executive at Schoolcraft College, I had budget responsibilities, so this position has really been a natural evolution for me.
I’ve truly enjoyed my time as budget director and I look forward to making it 8 for 8 when it comes to getting budgets signed early under the Snyder administration. As I mentioned, the position of budget director ties closely to the position of leading on policy issues, and so there is a tremendous opportunity to have a positive impact on the continued growth and competitiveness of Michigan businesses, both through smarter tax policy and through investment in priorities such as the Marshall Plan, where we can reshape the way we connect talent to Michigan businesses.
Q:What do you see as the legacy of the Snyder Administration when it comes to the budgeting process, Michigan’s fiscal standing and the state’s continued manufacturing competitiveness?
Walsh: I think this governor and this administration will be remembered for putting Michigan back on course when it comes to smart and balanced budgets that look long into the future. Job providers can’t grow and thrive in a state with budget uncertainty and a failing tax policy, and so I think what we have now is an environment where manufacturers can thrive. The new normal is that budgets are done early, without even a hint of talk about government shutdown, which had sadly become the norm prior to 2011. I think the other thing that this administration will be remembered for is fostering a stronger understanding of the importance of one-time funding and ongoing funding and the criticality of not funding items in the base budget with funds that are one-time in nature.
Q:What is your vision and that of Governor Snyder for what will be his final budget?
Walsh: I see it as the final stamp, at least from a budget perspective, on this governor’s successful effort to reinvent Michigan. This administration has never wavered on its commitment to fiscal responsibility. We have paid down debt, invested in our rainy-day fund, invested in key areas like education and public safety and infrastructure, and this last budget is really the final step in an eight- year run of historic and smart budgeting.
Q:Manufacturing drives Michigan’s economy — leading the nation in new manufacturing job creation for most of Governor Snyder’s two terms — how important is manufacturing’s success to the stability of Michigan and its budget process?
Walsh: In short, I think it’s very important. Michigan has long been known as a leader in manufacturing, and I think what you’ve seen is a very strong emphasis on continuing that tradition here in Michigan. We know the vital role that manufacturing plays in the Michigan economy. As budget director, I’ve had the privilege of being part of the consensus revenue estimating process, and as part of that process we hear from economists and receive forecasts about manufacturing, so I know firsthand how important a thriving manufacturing sector is to the Michigan economy and in turn to a successful revenue forecast with which to build the budget.