Stay Tuned: OPEB Revisions Forthcoming and We May Need Your Help

UPDATED (10 a.m., Dec. 6, 2017): The League has been told to expect substitute versions for the 16-bill OPEB reform package sometime this morning or later today. The original package of bills, as introduced Nov. 30, was approved without support from Democrats in House and Senate committees Tuesday and have been tentatively scheduled for action on today’s House and Senate agendas. The League continues to actively press for amendments to the bills that would address our concerns. Please stay tuned as the League may ask you – our members – to contact your lawmakers to support or oppose the forthcoming revisions.

The League's Chris Hackbarth, right, testifies about the proposed OPEB legislation with officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association.

The League’s Chris Hackbarth, right, testifies about the proposed OPEB legislation with officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association.

FROM 4:30 p.m. Dec. 5, 2017: The League’s Chris Hackbarth and Anthony Minghine testified this morning and this afternoon in opposition to the introduced versions of the identical OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefit) bill packages in the Michigan Senate and House committees. Negotiation on these bills is ongoing and we are working diligently with the Governor’s Administration and House and Senate leadership staff to address our concerns. They have been receptive to our input so far and we are waiting for revisions that should reflect the input we have provided.

We testified Tuesday in both committees alongside officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association. League member and Port Huron City Manager James Freed also testified. We continue to work and propose changes to the complex 16-bill package. The Senate Michigan Competitiveness Committee approved each of the bills, along with a related technical amendment, along party lines in 4-1 votes and sent them to the full Senate for a vote. The Senate adjourned for the day and may take up the package possibly later this week or next.

Port Huron City Manager James Freed testifies about the OPEB bill during a state House committee meeting Tuesday morning.

Port Huron City Manager James Freed testifies about the OPEB bill during a state House committee meeting Tuesday morning.

As most League members are probably aware, the League has been working for nearly two years on major municipal finance reform through our SaveMiCity initiative (go to saveMicity.org for details). The SaveMICity efforts has been looking for revenue, structure, and cost solutions to make our municipalities more fiscally sustainable. OPEB has been identified as our most significant budget cost driver in need of reform. Therefore the OPEB discussion happening now in the state Legislature is extremely important. For many months, League staff have been working with the legislature and governor’s office to help craft solutions to the OPEB problem.

The 16-bill package (House Bills 5298-5313 and duplicate Senate Bills 686-701) has pros and cons that League staff continue to assess to determine if these reform bills will provide necessary tools for communities to better manage these costs while remaining true to our fundamental beliefs –  that communities need the ability to provide reasonable benefits to their employees and retirees without crowding out essential city services.

The League's Anthony Minghine testifies before a state House committee.

The League’s Anthony Minghine testifies before a state House committee.

There are many parts of the bill package that the League supports, but we are also working to address a number of concerns that exist within the bills as introduced. Chief among them is the use of the Emergency Management (EM) law as the enforcement mechanism to address any impasse situation in the OPEB reform process. The League’s Anthony Minghine, deputy executive director and chief operating officer, testified that the use of the EM law is a “broad overstep” to the problem. Specifically, the League has raised concerns over the inclusion of language in this package that opens PA 436, the Emergency Manager law to add in a new provision for an emergency management team to be appointed in communities where the community and its bargaining units are unable to come to agreement on a local corrective action plans designed to address an OPEB or pension funding situation that exceeds specified funding and budget spending thresholds.

Port Huron City Manager James Free talks with the League's Anthony Minghine during the Senate committee hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Port Huron City Manager James Free talks with the League’s Anthony Minghine during the Senate committee hearing Tuesday afternoon.

View details about the OPEB bills in a previous blog that the League’s Chris Hackbarth, director of state and federal affairs, posted Thursday, Nov. 30, and updated yesterday here.

While it appears that both committees will be moving their respective bill packages to the floor today we anticipate changes to these bills before any further action and continue to actively press for amendments to the bills that would address our concerns.

Matt Bach is director of communications for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org.

League Testifies on OPEB Bills, Continues to Work on Revisions

The League's Chris Hackbarth, right, testifies about the proposed OPEB legislation with officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association.

The League’s Chris Hackbarth, right, testifies about the proposed OPEB legislation with officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association.

UPDATED (4:30 p.m. Dec. 5, 2017): The League’s Chris Hackbarth and Anthony Minghine testified this morning and this afternoon in opposition to the introduced versions of the identical OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefit) bill packages in the Michigan Senate and House committees. Negotiation on these bills is ongoing and we are working diligently with the Governor’s Administration and House and Senate leadership staff to address our concerns. They have been receptive to our input so far and we are waiting for revisions that should reflect the input we have provided.

We testified Tuesday in both committees alongside officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association. League member and Port Huron City Manager James Freed also testified. We continue to work and propose changes to the complex 16-bill package. The Senate Michigan Competitiveness Committee approved each of the bills, along with a related technical amendment, along party lines in 4-1 votes and sent them to the full Senate for a vote. The Senate adjourned for the day and may take up the package possibly later this week or next.

Port Huron City Manager James Freed testifies about the OPEB bill during a state House committee meeting Tuesday morning.

Port Huron City Manager James Freed testifies about the OPEB bill during a state House committee meeting Tuesday morning.

As most League members are probably aware, the League has been working for nearly two years on major municipal finance reform through our SaveMiCity initiative (go to saveMicity.org for details). The SaveMICity efforts has been looking for revenue, structure, and cost solutions to make our municipalities more fiscally sustainable. OPEB has been identified as our most significant budget cost driver in need of reform. Therefore the OPEB discussion happening now in the state Legislature is extremely important. For many months, League staff have been working with the legislature and governor’s office to help craft solutions to the OPEB problem.

The 16-bill package has pros and cons that League staff continue to assess to determine if these reform bills will provide necessary tools for communities to better manage these costs while remaining true to our fundamental beliefs –  that communities need the ability to provide reasonable benefits to their employees and retirees without crowding out essential city services.

The League's Anthony Minghine testifies before a state House committee.

The League’s Anthony Minghine testifies before a state House committee.

There are many parts of the bill package that the League supports, but we are also working to address a number of concerns that exist within the bills as introduced. Chief among them is the use of the Emergency Management (EM) law as the enforcement mechanism to address any impasse situation in the OPEB reform process. The League’s Anthony Minghine, deputy executive director and chief operating officer, testified that the use of the EM law is a “broad overstep” to the problem. Specifically, the League has raised concerns over the inclusion of language in this package that opens PA 436, the Emergency Manager law to add in a new provision for an emergency management team to be appointed in communities where the community and its bargaining units are unable to come to agreement on a local corrective action plans designed to address an OPEB or pension funding situation that exceeds specified funding and budget spending thresholds.

Port Huron City Manager James Free talks with the League's Anthony Minghine during the Senate committee hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Port Huron City Manager James Free talks with the League’s Anthony Minghine during the Senate committee hearing Tuesday afternoon.

View details about the OPEB bills in a previous blog that the League’s Chris Hackbarth, director of state and federal affairs, posted Thursday, Nov. 30, and updated yesterday here: http://blogs.mml.org/wp/inside208/2017/11/30/legislature-introduces-opeb-reform-proposal/.

While it appears that both committees will be moving their respective bill packages to the floor today we anticipate changes to these bills before any further action and continue to actively press for amendments to the bills that would address our concerns.

Matt Bach is director of communications for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org.

USDA Now Accepting Solid Waste Management Grant Applications

Our friends at the USDA asked the Michigan Municipal League to pass this along to our members. So here it is:

USDA Now Accepting Solid Waste Management Grant Applications

USDA Rural Development is currently accepting applications for Solid Waste Management grants. The deadline for the current funding cycle is Monday, January 2, 2018.

Funds can be used to evaluate current landfill conditions, identify threats to water resources, provide training to enhance operations and help communities reduce the amount of solid waste going into a landfill.

The program is open to local governments, non-profit organizations, federally recognized tribes and academic institutions located in areas with populations of 10,000 or less.

Further information on how to apply for this grant opportunity can be found at www.grants.gov, key search term SWMFY2018; visit www.rd.usda.gov/mi; or call (517) 324-5156.

House and Senate Reach Agreement on Revenue Sharing Increase in Upcoming Budget

A joint House/Senate conference committee met this morning (June 8, 2017) and approved a revenue sharing proposal for the upcoming 2017-18 state fiscal year.

Lead by former Walker mayor, State Rep. Rob VerHeulen and State Sen. Jim Stamas, the budget report included a 2.5% increase ($6.2 million) in funding for those cities, villages and townships that have been receiving statutory revenue sharing. This increase, alongside the expected improvement in sales tax collections that are estimated to improve Constitutional revenue sharing payments by more than $40 million, would reverse last year’s overall revenue sharing decline and provide the first increase on the statutory side in more than three years.

It should be noted that this morning’s conference agreement on SB 142 (http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2017-2018/billanalysis/House/pdf/2017-HLA-0142-7AA49F7E.pdf) was developed without any input from the Snyder Administration or the Department of Treasury, as the Administration and Legislature continue to haggle over Legislative leadership’s desire to include a closure of the MI Public School Employees Retirement System as a part of the spending for the upcoming budget year.

This means that while both chambers have consistently supported increases for cities, villages and townships throughout this year’s budget development process, the Administration did not originally recommend any increase and could resist the proposed increase if this version is presented for his signature without an overall deal in place on the MPSERS situation.

League members should contact the Governor’s office and urge his support for this proposed increase and for a long-term plan for restoration of the devastating cuts of the past decade.

Posted by Matt Bach on behalfof Chris Hackbarth. Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

Michigan Municipal League, Chris Hackbarth Named Among Top Lobbyists in State

The Michigan Municipal League and our own Chris Hackbarth, state and federal affairs director, were both recognized this week for being among the top lobbyists in the state.

The recognition of the League and Chris making a real impact in Lansing politics was part of the 2017 Capitol Insider Survey done by MIRS News Service and EPIC-MRA. .

“It’s gratifying to see others recognize what we already know – that the Michigan Municipal League and our excellent staff does an outstanding job representing our members at the state level,” said League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin. “It takes a lot of hard work, attention to detail and an enthusiastic and supportive membership to be effective in Lansing. Receiving this recognition shows that with the support of our members we are making a difference in Lansing.

The survey ranked the League in the top five in the category of “most effective membership organization” in the state.

In the individual category, Chris was also in the top five in the category of “most effective lobbyist for an association.”

“Chris is a real asset for the League, for our members and for Michigan,” Gilmartin said. “I’m extremely proud of Chris and his team and how we fight on behalf of our communities.”

The 2017 MIRS EPIC/MRA Capitol Insider Survey included completed responses from 479 legislators, lobbyists, staff members and other insiders in and around the state capital. It was conducted online from May 12, through May 19, 2017.

Contact Your State Reps Today and Tell Them to Oppose Income Tax Elimination Bill

Act now logo new-320

***UPDATE:   

The Michigan House just adjourned session for the day (Tuesday) after adopting a substitute version H-3 for HB 4001 that would reduce the income tax rate from 4.25% down to 3.9% by January 1, 2021 and stopping at that point.  Following hours of caucus and floor discussion, the new version was introduced and adopted on the House floor with no explanation of the new version.  The House Fiscal Agency analysis of the new proposal pegs the state’s General Fund loss in the first year and $195 million and progressing upwards to $1.1 billion in FY2021-22.  The H-3 version of the bill is now on 3rd reading in the House and has been listed for action on TODAY’s (Wednesday’s) House calendar. So it is just as important to contact your Reps today and ask them to oppose the sub version of HB 4001. Governor Snyder came out with a statement last night opposed to the revised bill (he was also against the original bill).

Legislation being considered in Lansing would eliminate the state income tax, potentially blowing a massive hole in our budget and destroying vital programs and services communities and your residents rely on every day. Let’s face it, nobody likes to pay taxes. But we need the services those taxes support – police and fire protection, road maintenance, street lighting, drinking water, libraries, parks, and the list goes on and on.

This plan to eliminate the state income tax is moving quickly and we need your help to oppose it. On Feb. 15, a state House committee passed out HB 4001, which would cut $680 million from the state budget in the first, partial year alone. This idea is poor fiscal policy that would harm the state’s future ability to provide critical services for its residents, communities, and businesses. There is no question that with revenue reductions of that magnitude, the remaining statutory revenue sharing payments would be at risk and any future restoration of the cuts from the past decade would be a virtual impossibility.

Proponents of the tax cut say it would spur economic growth and allow people living paycheck to paycheck to see meaningful tax relief and allow them to buy more. A recent Midland Daily News editorial disagreed and broke it down like this: “But the reality is that is a bunch of bunk. A person making $50,000 a year would see a tax cut of $175 — about $3.37 per week (48 cents a day). That’s hardly going to bail out people living paycheck to paycheck and is a very minimal increase in buying power.”

Governor Snyder and Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri also have spoken against the proposal and recent polling reveals little support for an income tax cut from voters, regardless of political party or geography, and almost no support once voters are told of the impact of the repeal. The poll found 74 percent of people oppose the idea of eliminating the income tax without a plan to replace revenue lost by the state.

Michigan communities have already lost $7.5 billion in revenue sharing dollars since 2002. This is money that should have gone to local communities, but instead state leaders kept the funds for their own budget priorities. Further risking cuts in revenue sharing, coupled with the dramatic declines in property tax revenues from the Great Recession, will only further devastate local governments. We should be talking about growth, not more cuts. With Michigan’s economy finally recovering, we should be looking for ways where our communities can share in that recovery, not push them further into crisis.

Please contact your State Representative today (look up their contact information by clicking here) and tell them to oppose HB 4001.

Matt Bach is director of media relations. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org.

Legislative Committee Orientation Event at Capitol Teaches Ins and Outs of State Politics

League staff John LaMacchia and Chris Hackbarth at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

League staff John LaMacchia and Chris Hackbarth at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

(View more photos here)

About 60 local municipal officials from throughout the state were at the state Capitol Thursday in Lansing for the Michigan Municipal League’s Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation. The first-time event for the League was highly successful as members from the League’s various legislative policy committees heard from state lawmakers, League staff and communications experts.

The League makes policy decisions based on the input from its five League policy committees that are broken into topics – energy, environment and technology (chaired by Brighton City Manager Nate Geinzer); land use and economic development (chaired by Lake Isabella Village Manager Tim Wolff); municipal finance (chaired by Howell City Manager Shea Charles); municipal services (chaired by Novi City Manager Pete Auger); and transportation infrastructure (chaired by Farmington Hills Public Services Director Gary Mekjian).

The event was hosted by State Rep. Dan Lauwers in the Speakers Library in the Capitol across the street from the League’s Lansing office. Lauwers welcomed the group to the Capitol and was followed by League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin who thanked the members for their services on the policy committees and explained how important their work is to the League’s success as an organization.

State legislators speak at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

State legislators Rep. Christine Greig, Rep. James Lower and Sen. Ken Horn speak at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday. Kyle Melinn (left), co-owner of MIRS News Service, was moderator of the panel discussion.

Other event speakers were League staff members Chris Hackbarth, director of state and federal affairs; John LaMacchia, assistant director of state and federal affairs; Jennifer Rigterink, legislative associated; Emily Kieliszewski, member engagement specialist; and Shanna Draheim, policy director. There was also a panel discussion moderated by Kyle Melinn, news editor and co-owner of Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS) and featuring State Rep. Christine Greig, House Democratic Floor Leader; State Rep. James Lower; and State Sen. Ken Horn.

Local officials listen to a presentation at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

Local officials listen to a presentation at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

Policy committee members from throughout the state attended representing the following communities: Village of Beverly Hills, City of Novi, City of Flushing, City of Gibraltar, City of Wyoming, Village of Copemish, City of Dexter, City of Center Line, City of Howell, City of Southgate, City of Grosse Pointe, Village of Chesaning, City of Livonia, City of Taylor,
City of Brighton, City of Charlotte, City of Westland, City of Woodhaven, City of Springfield, City of Dearborn Heights, City of Ann Arbor, Village of Mendon, City of Grand Blanc, City of Menominee, City of Midland, City of Berkley, City of St. Clair Shores, Village of St. Charles, City of Ovid, City of Monroe, City of Ann Arbor, City of Hazel Park, City of Douglas, City of Farmington Hills, City of Mt. Pleasant, City of Hamtramck, City of Alma, City of Hastings, City of Farmington Hills, City of Grandville, City of Dexter, City of Adrian, City of Rochester Hills, City of Orchard Lake, City of Cadillac, City of Rochester
City of Plymouth, City of Wayne, Village of Cassopolis, City of Dexter, City of Milan, City of Midland, Village of Sparta, City of Alpena, City of Saline, City of Gladstone, City of East Lansing, City of Clio, Village of Lake Isabella, Village of Blissfield, and Village of Quincy.

Dusty Fancher and Dave Waymire speak at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

Dusty Fancher and Dave Waymire speak at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

After lunch, the group heard about communications, public relations and the insider’s guide to lobbying from Dave Waymire, partner at Martin Waymire; and Dusty Fancher, partner with Midwest Strategy Group.

To learn about the latest legislative issues involving Michgian’s communities, subscribe to the League’s Inside 208 blog here: http://blogs.mml.org/wp/inside208/ (view subscribe box on right side of page). Learn more about the League’s policy committees here: http://www.mml.org/advocacy/committee/index.html. View additional photos from the event here.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 734-669-6317.

Governor Snyder Signs Recreational Authorities Bill with Support from Big Rapids and League

The League's Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (green tie) joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing HB 4578.

The League’s Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (green tie) joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing HB 4578.

Today, the Michigan Municipal League’s Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing House Bill 4578.

The new law clarifies the use of tax proceeds by a recreational authority and is expanded to include school districts. Working in conjunction with officials from the City of Big Rapids, the League was successful in getting the legislation approved with support from bill sponsors Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; and Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac. View a previous blog about the legislation here.

The legislation, modeled on similar legislation from previous sessions, expands the definition of an eligible municipality to include a school district. This change also allows a city, village, or township to partner with a school district to form a recreation authority allowing broader access to recreation programming and facilities throughout a region.

Thank you to Mayor Warba and other Big Rapids area officials for their support on this bill! We also like to thank bill sponsors Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; and Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 734-669-6317.

Lame Duck Legislative Work Underway; Sign up for Inside 208 Updates!

subscribe-here-arrowThe Lame Duck session of the state Legislature is in full swing and there are a number of key issues potentially impacting your communities that the Michigan Municipal League is working on and watching. WE MAY NEED YOUR HELP over the next several days as the Legislature currently has session scheduled through Dec. 15.

For regular updates on what is happening, the League strongly encourages you to sign up to receive email alerts from our Legislative blog, Inside 208. Please go here and sign up in the “subscribe” box on the right side of the page by typing in your email address. This is a free service provided to League members and you will receive emails each time a new Inside 208 blog is posted about the latest Legislative activity happening in Lansing. As issues arise, the League will be posting regularly on Inside 208 and we may be asking you to contact your Legislators on various bills.

Currently, there are multiple pieces of legislation the League is following that could have both a positive and/or a negative impact on your communities.

Some of major issues we have blogged about so far include bills to reform Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) or retirement health care, changes to Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Authorities, a bill that limits local control on transportation network companies and taxis (think Uber and Lyft), new economic development tools, and potential energy reform.

Please help us by signing up to receive our Inside 208 blog emails during this quickly-moving, ever-changing Lame Duck legislative sessions.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 734-669-6317.

Lame Duck Agenda Whispers in Michigan Legislature

MIRS article related to a OPEB issue.

MIRS article related to a OPEB issue.

In case you didn’t see it, there was a recent article in MIRS quoting Governor Snyder as suggesting municipal retirement health care reforms could be considered during the upcoming lame duck legislative session. This is an issue that the League has identified as a key cost driver for communities (www.SaveMICity.org) and is a major area of interest for our members.

While there are only between nine and eleven session days currently scheduled and no bills or proposals to react to, we are monitoring this issue very closely and working to ensure that should any proposal surface, municipal concerns and fiscal stresses will be at the forefront of the debate.

In terms of background on this issue: for over a year now, the Michigan Municipal League has been advocating for the need to reform the state’s municipal finance system. The League Board of Trustees approved a platform of municipal finance reform centered around cost, structure, and revenue.

opeb-chart-with-percentagesThe single biggest cost reform identified by our members is the need to restructure our retiree health care obligation, commonly known as OPEB – “Other Post-Employment Benefit”. The data (view pie chart and go here) supports what our members have repeatedly told us: the escalating costs of providing retiree health care benefits, not pensions, are the biggest impediment and greatest threat to investing in their communities.

We will continue to keep members updated if there are any developments along this topic.

(Posted by Matt Bach, League director of media relations, on behalf of Chris Hackbarth).

Please feel free to contact Chris Hackbarth if you have any questions: 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.