Today, Chris Hackbarth, the Michigan Municipal League’s director of state and federal affairs, had an opportunity to testify before the 100th Legislature’s House Local Government and Municipal Finance Committee. We are encouraged that “Municipal Finance” has been added to the committee name this term. Hopefully it’s an indicator that the message we’re conveying through the SaveMICity initiative of our state’s broken system for funding municipalities is making headway in Lansing.
We’re also encouraged that three of the committee members – Rep. Alex Garza (D-Taylor), Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy), and Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles) – are former local government officials now serving their first term in the Legislature.
Right after the meeting, another committee member – Rep. Kara Hope (D-Lansing) – shared our slide “How Much Has Your District Lost?” on Facebook with the message “What would these communities have done with these funds? Well, half of all local government dollars are spent on public safety.”
Following Hackbarth’s testimony (which you can watch here starting at the 27:15 minute mark) we were very encouraged to hear committee Chair Rep. James Lower (R-Cedar Lake) say, “It is going to be a priority of this committee to talk about the municipal finance structure and I think you did an excellent job of laying out the League’s perspective.”
Hackbarth’s presentation was designed to give the committee members an overview of the League and familiarize them with the foundation and goals of our SaveMICity initiative. He impressed upon the committee the importance of cities in attracting talent to the state. Talent wants great places to live. We need to invest in our communities so they can thrive and provide the kind of environment that will make talent want to live here.To accomplish that goal, communities need assets to enhance their infrastructure, parks, cultural activities and other amenities that will appeal to today’s workforce.
But revenue sharing, one of the primary sources of income for cities, has been shrinking over the past decade and local governments have had to fill the gap. Since 2002, the State of Michigan has diverted $8.6 billion from communities and used it to fund state operations. That’s a very big gap to fill.
Property taxes, another key funding source, have also dwindled. Since the Great Recession, the state economy has recovered. But factors such as Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment have greatly hindered the growth of property taxes. It will take many years for some communities to get their property taxes back to pre-recession levels.
Hackbarth stressed that the League wants to partner with Governor Whitmer’s administration and the Legislature to make revenue sharing a priority. If we can help our communities thrive, the state will fare better as well. The League is open to looking in many directions to find a solution. Working with the Legislature makes more options available.