Reach Out! Encourage House Members to Vote Yes on the Senate Passed Transportation Funding Package

On Tuesday (11/25) Speaker of the House, Jase Bolger, put forward a new transportation funding plan. The plan would remove the 6% sales tax now charged on fuel sales (at 1% per year), while at the same time converting the 19-cent-per-gallon fuel tax to a percentage rate that would gradually increase over the same period. The result would be an extra $1 billion a year in revenue that would be devoted to roads. The plan does not provide for a replacement for the lost sales tax revenue that goes to local government and schools ($75M for constitutional revenue sharing alone). The Speaker theorizes that sales tax revenue is projected to grow by more than $200 million annually because of economic growth in Michigan, meaning schools and local governments would not be hurt by the gradual removal of the 6% sales tax from gasoline sales.

This plan is significantly different than the package of bills passed by the Senate that would increase transportation funding by nearly $1.5 billion over the next four years and is currently awaiting a vote in the House. Please consider reaching out to your Representative and ask them to support the transportation funding plan passed by the Senate. The message to your state Representative is simple:

  • Vote yes on the Senate passed transportation funding package.
  • We need a real increase in funds for roads, bridges and transit and we will not support any plan that would jeopardize local revenue.
  • Pass the increase approved by the Senate and we in local government will support your vote!

Please click on the following link for more information on the Senate plan and a breakdown of the increase in revenue each municipality would receive from HB 5477, which brings in the bulk of the new revenue by increasing the gas tax incrementally over 4 years. Transportation Package Information Sheet

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Revenue Sharing Recipients: Accountability and Transparency Certifications Due by Dec. 1

Just a reminder that accountability and transparency certifications are due to the Department of Treasury by December 1, 2014. You’ll recall that this is the only requirement remaining from the old EVIP program.

To meet the requirements for Accountability & Transparency under the revenue sharing program, eligible local units must certify to Treasury that they have produced and made available to the public a citizen’s guide, a performance dashboard, a debt service report and a projected budget report.

You can find additional information and forms on the Department of Treasury’s website.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

House Committee Considers Pneumatic Gun Legislation

Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on  Senate Bill 979 (sponsored by Sen. Hildenbrand, R-Grand Rapids), a bill to include pneumatic guns (i.e. paint ball guns) in the list of pistols or other firearms that local units of government currently cannot tax, regulate ownership of, registration of, sale/transfer/possession and transportation of (PA 319 of 1990).

The legislation does allow a local unit to regulate the possession of a pneumatic gun in someone under the age of 16 unless it is their private property as well as allow a local unit to prohibit discharging of a pneumatic gun in heavily populated areas.

The League is opposing this legislation. The committee did not vote, but we expect they will do so in the remaining session days.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

Senate Passes Legislation to Amend the Tax Appeals Process

Yesterday afternoon the Senate passed Senate Bills 1038, 1039 and 1040, bills that make changes to the tax appeal process and the Michigan Tax Tribunal Act.

The League has a lot of concerns regarding the way the Tax Tribunal has been valuing property and the losses sustained by our local communities; however, this legislation does not make changes that would address those concerns.

The League sent a list of concerns to the sponsor, Senator Caswell, and he addressed many of those concerns. At this point our biggest concern with the legislation is philosophical.

First and foremost we think this legislation is a solution in search of a problem. The Department of Treasury is pushing for this legislation; however, none of the stakeholders who actually use the tax appeals process (including local units of government and the business community) are interested in this legislation passing. Local government and schools are now neutral, and the business community is not pushing for the legislation to move.

Initially the legislation had a  3-year look back for property tax appeals which would have created uncertainty for local budgets. Sen. Caswell did address that concern with an amendment.

The bills now go to the House for their consideration.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

House Committee Passes Online Notice Legislation

This morning the House Local Government Committee reported House Bill 5560, legislation that would phase out the newspaper publication requirement for public notices and transition the notices to the internet.

HB 5560 creates a tiered system for legal notices and phases them out over time. The legislation is vague, but the least “serious” notices would be considered Tier A. Tier C would include those notices are those dealing with property and finances.

Under the bill, beginning January 1, 2025, a local government would be required to change how it provides public notice. A tier A public notice would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of a website for 30 days.  A tier A public notice with a link would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of a website for 30 days with a link to the full document.  A tier B public notice would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of a website for 14 days.  A tier B public notice with a link would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of a website for 14 days with a link to the full document. A tier C public notice would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of the website for 14 days.

The legislation allows local electors to hold a referendum to require continued publication in a newspaper. It allows allows local units to enter into contracts with media outlets for publication on their websites. The bill also requires archiving of public notices for five years.

The bill now goes to the House for its approval.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org

Michigan Senate Votes for New Funding for Transportation!

There are many transit options in Michigan and a complete transportation funding program would support all of them.

There are many transit options in Michigan and a complete transportation funding program would support all of them.

In a huge vote, the Michigan Senate has just passed HB 5477, a bill that would phase in a new percentage-based gasoline tax that will result in an additional $1.2 billion for transportation funding by 2019. Revenue from other bills in this package result in transportation increases as high as $1.5 billion annually once fully phased in.

The bill would replace the current cents per gallon structure, which is 19 cents per gallon on gasoline and 15 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. Under the bill, the percentage tax on gas would start at 9.5 percent as of April 1, 2015. It would increase to 11.5 percent on January 1, 2016; to 13.5 percent on January 1, 2017; and to 15.5 percent on January 1, 2018.

Thank you to all of our members who reached out to their Senator asking them to support this important legislation. The bill will now need to be approved by the House. Our advocacy efforts cannot end here. We encourage you to immediately begin reaching out to your House member and ask them to vote yes on House Bill 5477 as approved by the Senate.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

House Considers Cancer Presumption Legislation with State Paying Increased Costs

The legislature is one again considering cancer presumption legislation. After being vetoed by Governor Engler in 1998 cancer presumption has returned in some form each legislative session.

This morning the House Insurance Committee heard testimony Senate Bill 211, a bill that creates a cancer presumption for firefighters. It is presumed that if a firefighter develops certain types of cancer that it occurred during the course of his or her employment.

The League has always opposed cancer presumption because in its previous versions it would more than double workers compensation premiums for communities with full-time firefighters.  We consider that a conservative estimate. In a time where communities’ budgets are still reeling from revenue sharing cuts and property tax declines, this is a cost our communities are unable to afford.

In the Senate-passed version the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund is created in workers compensation but as a separate fund (similar to what the State has done with the silicosis or dust fund). Unlike the dust fund (where workers compensation providers are charged an assessment) the legislation indicates that the State will pay for claims submitted to the fund.

The bill indicates that the fund will not begin until the legislature appropriates money. If there is not enough money in the fund, claims will not be paid.

The committee did not vote on the legislation.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League. She can be reached at 517-908-0306 and sharkins at mml.org.

House Financial Liabilities Reform Committee Considers Municipal Security Legislation

This morning the House Financial Liabilities Reform Committee heard testimony on House Bill 5650, legislation that would amend the Revised Municipal Finance Act to provide for a statutory first lien on all taxes subject to an unlimited tax pledge for a municipal security authorized or issued before December 23, 1978, or approved by the electors of a municipality. This would apply to an unlimited tax pledge made prior to or after the date of enactment of the bill.

Current law requires that the taxes be set aside as collected for the payment of the principal and interest on the municipal securities divided pro rata among the various sinking funds and debt retirement funds in accordance with the amount levied. Upon collection and prior to dividing the funds pro rata, House Bill 5650 would require the funds set aside to be held in trust for the owners of the municipal security.

The committee did not vote on the legislation.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org

House Considers Legislation to Allow More Local Bonding for Pension/OPEB Costs

This morning the House Financial Liability Reform Committee heard testimony on House Bill 5279, legislation that would allow communities with an A credit rating to bond for pension and other post employment benefit (OPEB) costs if that community obtains bond insurance.

In 2012 the Governor signed Senate Bill 1129, legislation that allows communities with a AA bond rating or better to bond for the costs of switching from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan or for OPEB costs. This tool is very important for communities.

A number of communities with A bond ratings wanted to be included, and it was made clear by the Department of Treasury in 2012 that the administration would not expand the scope. The Department is opposed to HB 5279 as well, but we will continue to push forward.

The committee did not vote on the legislation.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org