Senate Transportation Committee Votes to Eliminate Local Cost Sharing Requirement with MDOT

Act 51 currently requires that all incorporated cities and villages with a population larger than 25,000 to pay a portion of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s project costs for opening, widening, and improving state trunkline highways within that incorporated city or village. A city or village is required to pay 12.5% of the project cost if their population is greater than 50,000, 11.25% of the project costs if their population is between 40,000 and 50,000, and 8.75% of the project costs if their population is between 25,000 and 40,000. This statute affects 45 cities in Michigan.

SB 557, sponsored by Senator Knollenberg, would eliminate the requirement for incorporated cities and villages greater than 25,000 to cover a portion of the Michigan Department of Transportation projects cost. As Michigan works to develop a 21st century transportation network the League believes these 45 cities should no longer be required to subsidize MDOT’s costs for the following reason:

  • All country road agencies and incorporated cities and villages with a population less than 25,000 are not required to pay a portion of MDOT’s project cost creating inequity in the system.
  • The funds used to pay for the cost of these projects comes directly from the 21.8% percent of funding received by cities and villages under Act 51. This results in less than 21.8% of Act 51 funding actually being used on local roads.
  • These matching funds can cost a local road agency a significant portion of their Act 51 funding.
  • Covering these project costs can delay, reduce, or eliminate future rehabilitation or reconstruction projects and significantly hinder a city’s ability to conduct routine maintenance such as snow plowing
  • MDOT’s planning process allocates state spending on projects based on the needs of their system without taking into account a city’s ability to contribute to the cost of those projects as required by Act 51. An unexpected bill from the Department could cripple a city’s local road program for years

This week the Senate transportation committee agreed with the League’s opposition to this provision within Act 51 and unanimously voted to eliminate it.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

State Reaches Revenue Consensus as Precursor to Finalizing Budget

The House and Senate Fiscal Agencies met with officials from Treasury this week to conduct the annual May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference.  As a follow-up to the January revenue conference that established the basis for the Governor’s original budget presentation, this week’s conference is used as the baseline for final decision-making by Legislative leaders and the Governor on the current year budget and the FY 16-17 budget scheduled to begin October 1st.

As reported in many news stories this week, the state’s sales and corporate income tax revenues have been running below what was estimated in January for the current year while Medicaid and other human services caseload costs are running higher than expected.  The potential impact on the current and upcoming proposed budgets have been reported to be in the $400 million range, subject to numerous line item and policy adjustments that could alter that impact. The overall consensus is that the proposed spending levels in next year’s state budget will need to be scaled back, but whether any reduction would be proposed for statutory revenue sharing payments is yet to be determined.  Early comments from legislative leaders are that they will look to reduce proposed increases from the Governor’s original proposal before looking at line items like revenue sharing.  The League continues to advocate aggressively to protect the existing payment level and urge the Legislature to find ways to improve the funding level in this critical item.

The continuing weakness in sales tax collections will have an impact on Constitutional payments to communities around the state for the remainder of this year.  According to the Consensus Estimate for sales tax revenue, the current projection for Constitutional revenue sharing is a 0.7% decline in FY 2015-16 relative to FY 2014-15.  Because these payments track with actual sales tax collections, the impact on forthcoming Constitutional payment from Treasury will adjust according to the revenue received.

For FY 2016-17, the Consensus projection is for a 1.7% increase relative to FY 2015-16, but that number will be revised at least two more times based upon the January 2017 and May 2017 revenue estimating conferences.

Chris Hackbarth is director of state affairs for the League. He can be reached at chackbarth@mml.org and 517-908-0304.

LaMacchia: Infrastructure Issues in Flint Symptom of Larger Problem

The League's John LaMacchia (center, right) and fellow panelists.

The League’s John LaMacchia (center, right) and fellow panelists.

What’s happening in Flint, Detroit and other cities is a symptom of a larger problem. A problem where cities in Michigan are only allowed to fall with the economy but not to prosper as the economy grows. And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t change the way the nation invests in communities.

This was a key message by the Michigan Municipal League’s John LaMacchia when speaking Thursday in Washington D.C. as part of Infrastructure Week 2016. The Infrastructure Week celebration organized by the National League of Cities and its partners is to raise awareness about the nation’s infrastructure needs. Cities construct and maintain the majority of our nation’s infrastructure and depend on a solid infrastructure network to provide safe and healthy communities, and grow their local economies.

The League's John LaMacchia is in Washington D.C. this week for the National League of Cities Infrastructure Week celebration. As part of his work, LaMacchia (center left) met with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (right).

The League’s John LaMacchia is in Washington D.C. this week for the National League of Cities Infrastructure Week celebration. As part of his work, LaMacchia (center left) met with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (right).

LaMacchia, assistant director of state affairs for the League, spoke as part of a panel discussion on “Securing Our Water Future: 21st Century Solutions for 21st Century Cities”. Other panelists were Council Member Matt Zone, City of Cleveland, Ohio, and National League of Cities 1st Vice President; Council Member Ron Nirenberg, City of San Antonio, Texas, and Chair, National League of Cities Energy and Environment Committee; Commissioner Heather Repenning, President Pro Tempore, Los Angeles Board of Public Works; Tyrone Jue, Senior Advisor on Environment to Mayor Ed Lee, City of San Francisco, California; Jonathan Trutt, Executive Director, West Coast Infrastructure Exchange; and Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and Executive Director, National League of Cities.

LaMacchia discussed the Flint water crisis and explained how the Flint issue is part of a much larger infrastructure problem in communities statewide.

Some of his key points included:

  • Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and Gov. Rick Snyder agree Flint’s lead-tainted service lines need to be removed. But it will take at least $55 million to replace all the lead-tainted lines. Money for water infrastructure has been put into appropriations bills in the Michigan Legislature and U.S. Congress, but the bills are still making their way through those legislative bodies.
  • The service lines are just part of the problem. The rest of Flint’s water system, from aging water mains to other infrastructure, needs to be totally replaced. The city’s water system loses a large percentage of the water to leaks, one reason Flint has some of the highest water rates in the country. Again, the City of Flint will need help from the state and federal governments to modernize its water infrastructure, a process that is expected to cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • When we look at Michigan as a whole we have neglected to properly invest, maintain and right size our infrastructure.
    The league's John LaMacchia speaks on a panel during Infrastructure Week in Washington D.C. May 19, 2016.

    The League’s John LaMacchia speaks on a panel during Infrastructure Week in Washington D.C. May 19, 2016.

  • For nearly 30 years Michigan has been about 10 million people yet we have increased the amount of infrastructure in the state by roughly 50% and giving little thought to how we would maintain both the old and new infrastructure.
  • Time and time again we have built new water and sewer plants without capitalizing on the existing capacity of a nearby system.
  • This not only speaks to how we have been inefficient in managing infrastructure in Michigan but also how we have disinvested in our communities in general.
  • Why cities are important: Our goal at the Michigan Municipal League is to make Michigan communities places people want to be. Places that can attract a talented work force and businesses. Having placemaking strategies in all communities is important. But it’s hard to even think about creating great places when you’re fighting every day not to drown. How can you attract businesses and a work force if your roads are crumbling, bridges are in disrepair and you’re communities have slashed the number of police officers, firefighters, public works employees and more?
  • The numbers show that some states – particularly Michigan – do not understand the importance of cities as economic drivers. If they did they would be investing in cities. But unfortunately they are disinvesting in cities.
  • According to U.S. Census data all but one state showed growth in municipal general revenue between 2002 and 2012. View chart here.
  • Many want to blame this on a single state recession but the numbers tell a different story.
  • Why is this the case in Michigan – property values decrease in 2008 crash and the Michigan Constitution limits their ability to recover, PLUS revenue sharing to the tune of $7.5 billion over the last decade plus.

LaMacchia concluded explaining Michigan’s system for funding municipalities is fundamentally broken and unless it gets fixed we’re going to see more situations like what’s happening in Flint and Detroit occur in other communities.

Also earlier this week, NLC released a new report called, Paying for Local Infrastructure in a New Era of Federalism. Read a blog about the report by the League’s Summer Minnick.

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

Committee Approves Dark Store Fix – Contact Your Legislator!

Underutilized Mall in Wyoming (2) dark storesThe House Tax Policy committee today reported House Bill 5578 with a bi-partisan 11-2 vote.  Following multiple committee hearings spanning the past six months, today’s positive committee vote had been anticipated, based upon the amount of work done by the sponsor and local government advocates.

As the committee vice-chair, Rep. Dave Maturen was able to draw upon his extensive appraisal background to educate the members of the committee on the dark store problem and develop the language in the proposal, in conjunction with help from the League and numerous local government organizations and officials.

The language in HB 5578 provides very simple guidance to the Michigan Tax Tribunal that aligns directly with the existing, accepted methods of valuation that all assessors are trained to follow. This proactive acknowledgement of the three standard methods of valuation, coupled with language that restricts the Tribunal from accepting self-imposed deed restrictions as a true sales comparison are designed to restore balance to the decisions of the Tribunal and ensure that these decisions are based on the best data available.

We need your help to ensure that this bill will be voted on by the full House! The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Retailers Association are aggressively opposing this bill and contacting Representatives and Senators in an attempt to block further action on the bill. They claim that the only problem is uneducated local assessors who are over-assessing these large retailers.

Their direct message to legislators is; “Local governments are trying to legitimize their over-assessments and lack of persuasive evidence before the MTT by making scapegoats out of job providers who have successfully challenged their over-assessments and the MTT.”  Your involvement and personal contact with your Representative and Senator are the only way to counteract these attacks and ensure that this critical legislation moves before the Legislature recesses for the summer.  Please contact your State Representative and Senator today to urge their support for HB 5578!

For further information about the bill and the previous committee testimony, please review these Inside 208 articles – “New Dark Stores Solution…”  and “Michigan Municipal League Members Testify…“.  Or visit the League’s Dark Stores Information Page.

Chris Hackbarth is director of state affairs for the League. He can be reached at chackbarth@mml.org and 517-908-0304.

 

Transportation Asset Management Council Releases Annual Report

During 2015, the Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) rated the pavement condition of the paved federal-aid eligible roads for the twelfth consecutive year. This effort was achieved through a cooperative effort of individuals from county road commissions, city engineering staffs, the Michigan Department of Transportation, regional planning agencies, and metropolitan planning organizations.

In addition, the TAMC also began rating the pavement conditions of non-federal aid eligible
roads as well. Unfortunately, as you will see from data included in the attached report, the
condition of the public roads in the state continues to deteriorate.

The TAMC also reports on the condition of bridges. The data indicates that the condition of
Michigan bridges has stayed flat, but is forecasted to decline in the future. The report contains specific analysis of this information.

You can visit the TAMC website for a copy of the  2015 Annual Report being featured under the “What’s New” selection on the home page by clicking here.

Both the full and mini versions are also available in the About Us section with all previous reports under Annual Reports and can be accessed by clicking here.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Revenue Sharing Budgets Positioned for Initial Action; Senate Cuts Statutory by 1.5%

One of the many charts showing how Michigan has disinvested in its cities more than any other state in the state. That tiny red line you see is Michigan.

One of the many charts showing how Michigan has disinvested in its cities more than any other state in the state. That tiny red line you see is Michigan. A 2016-17 Senate budget plan would cut statutory revenue sharing to communities even more. Learn more at SaveMiCity.org

The Michigan House and Senate Appropriations committees made their opening moves on the state budget this week by reporting the full budget bills to the floors of their respective chambers. Following expected floor action on these bills in the coming week or two, each chamber will review the other’s proposal and move toward a final budget deal sometime in early June.

Both proposals continue the current practice of ignoring the fiscal needs of local government, failing to make revenue sharing and the larger issue of municipal finance a budget priority. Without a renewed focus and commitment by the Governor and Legislature, Michigan will continue to occupy last place nationally in our treatment of local government. Learn about the League’s municipal finance initiative at SaveMiCity.org. View how much money your community has lost in revenue sharing here.

The House committee reported an omnibus budget bill, House Bill 5294, to the floor which includes funding for revenue sharing. The House proposal maintains current-year funding for revenue sharing, only deviating from the Governor’s original recommendation by maintaining the $5.8 million that the Governor would have removed for approximately 100 townships that hadn’t received revenue sharing previously.

The Senate committee, on the other hand, moved Senate Bill 788 to the Senate floor with significant changes to the Governor’s proposal for revenue sharing. Statutory revenue sharing would see a 1.5% reduction ($3.85 million) in the Senate version, with the dollars from that reduction being shifted to cover a proposed local match requirement for the purchase of new voting equipment. The League urges you to contact your Senator, asking them to join us in opposition to this approach.

In the Governor’s original budget proposal, the effort to replace existing voting equipment statewide was supported by $10 million in General Fund and $5 million in requested (unidentified) local match. These dollars would be coupled with remaining federal Help America Vote Act funds and dollars appropriated for this purpose in the current budget year. The purchase of new voting equipment has been championed by the County and Municipal Clerks Associations and the Secretary of State’s office, but the call for a local match requirement had not been voiced prior to this year’s budget.

The proposal to accommodate the Governor’s local match request in the Senate version raises serious concerns for the Michigan Municipal League and member communities, even beyond the further erosion of an already devastated statutory revenue sharing base.

  • All cities, villages, townships and counties would benefit from the purchase of new voting equipment, but the local match requirement would only be paid by those cities and villages and few townships that receive a statutory payment. ***Counties and townships that do not receive non-Constitutional revenue sharing payments would pay no local match.  
  • By paying the local match only out of the statutory revenue sharing line, there is no correlation to the actual match requirement for equipment being purchased within each community. In a sample comparing similarly sized communities, one with 19 voting precincts would forgo only about $1,500 in revenue sharing, while another community with only 12 polling places would lose more than $22,000 … and this does not account for the more than 1,000 local government units that would pay nothing in local match!
  • County statutory payments, already funded at 100%, would receive a 2% increase ($4.3 million) in this proposal. Again, without any requirement for a local match for voting equipment purchases by a county.
  • This match requirement would be deducted during the FY 16-17 budget year, yet voting equipment would not be received by any local government until at least 2017 and delivery would like be phased in over two to three years.

Comments have been made that under this proposal, every local unit will receive at least what they received during  the current budget year even with the 1.5% base reduction, but this statement assumes that there will be growth in sales tax revenue driving higher Constitutional revenue sharing payments. Early indications from the most recent Senate Fiscal Agency monthly revenue report reveal that it is unlikely that the state will even meet its already reduced sales tax estimate for the current year, let alone meet the overly optimistic 3.9% growth estimate for the coming year. It is more probable that Constitutional revenue sharing payments will be flat for a third year in a row, if not reduced at some point over the next year.

It is expected that the Senate’s revenue sharing plan will be voted on by the full chamber next week. Please remember to contact your Senator and urge them to begin restoring the cuts of the past decade and reform the way local governments are funded. They should start by rejecting the committee proposal.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

New “Dark Store” Solution Focuses on Michigan Tax Tribunal Process

A big box "dark store" in southeast Michigan.

A big box “dark store” in southeast Michigan.

State Representative Dave Maturen (R-Vicksburg) introduced House Bill 5578 this week (http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2016-HB-5578) with the support of the Michigan Municipal League and other local government groups, to address the ongoing crisis of “dark store” property tax appeals.

The legislation proposed by Rep. Maturen, was developed following a workgroup process which he chaired and involved participation by the League and numerous local assessors, appraisers and other property valuation experts. The proposal would require Michigan Tax Tribunal members to equitably apply universally accepted appraisal standards when deciding larger property tax appeal cases. These standards will provide consistency in determining highest and best use as part of the property valuation process. The legislation would also restrict the consideration of comparable sales that have deed restrictions if the deed restrictions are imposed by the seller to keep competitors of the seller from the  market and  the deed restrictions provide no benefit to the property but only to the seller’s business.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday (April 27) before the House Tax Policy committee. League members are encouraged to contact the legislators on the Tax Policy committee at this link and your own Representative and Senator to explain the importance of this issue and to urge their support for HB 5578. Use the League’s Action Center to contact your lawmakers.

Visit the League’s information page on the Dark Stores issue here: http://www.mml.org/advocacy/dark-stores/

Chris Hackbarth is director of state affairs for the League. He can be reached at chackbarth@mml.org and 517-908-0304.

MDOT Seeks Comments on Rural Transportation Planning Process

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is federally required to reach out to local elected officials in non-metropolitan areas every five years to gauge their involvement and knowledge of the transportation planning process.

They are currently seeking input through a short on-line survey.  Please complete the survey between now and May 31, 2016. To complete the survey please click here.

If you have any questions, please contact Pamela Boyd, Supervisor, Statewide Planning Section at MDOT via email at boydp1@michigan.gov.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Transportation Asset Management Council Spring Conference

The Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council has finalized the spring conference program for Wednesday, April 13 at the Dearborn/Detroit Hilton DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center. The agenda and hotel reservation information can be found at the following link. 2016 Spring Asset Management Program Agenda

The TAMC Conference Committee put together a broad spectrum of topics this year and we are very excited for the event.  The goal was to provide value across a diverse audience and discuss emerging issues such as the new Federal Performance Management regulations, new technologies in pavement maintenance,  incorporating other corridor utility information in Transportation Asset Management planning, and learning Asset Management strategies from our neighbors to the North.  The conference will also include updates from Director Kirk Steudle, the MDOT Metro Region, TAMC activities and reporting of 2015 bridge and pavement conditions.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

 

MDOT seeks applications for 2017 High Risk Rural Road program.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is pleased to announce the solicitation of applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2017 High Risk Rural Road (HRRR) program. The FY 2017 federal budget for this program is estimated to be $2,000,000.

A HRRR is defined as: 1) any roadway functionally classified as rural major or minor collector or a rural local road that the crash rate for fatalities and incapacitating injuries exceeds the statewide average for those functional classes of roadway, or 2) any roadway functionally classified as rural major or minor collector or a rural local road that will likely have increases in traffic volumes that are likely to create a crash rate for fatalities and incapacitating injuries that exceeds the statewide average for those functional classes of roadway.

For more information on the High Risk Rural Road program please click here. For the electronic submittal form click here.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Pamela Blazo at (517) 335-2224 or at blazop@michigan.gov.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.