Michigan Municipal League Staff Help Prepare Detroit City Council for Future After Bankruptcy

Detroit City Council MML Meeting

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones introduces League CEO Dan Gilmartin at a recent education session.

Michigan Municipal League staff has spent the last few weeks working with Detroit City Council members as they move forward and prepare to bring the city out of bankruptcy. League staff has led education sessions on a variety of topics, including the importance of placemaking, city finance and financial management, parliamentary procedure, legislative advocacy and other areas.

“We wanted to do this to help create a good foundation on which they can build as the city moves out of bankruptcy,” said Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin. Gilmartin was the first person from the League to meet with the city council in sessions that started July 14 and expected to wrap up later this month.

Gilmartin gave an overview of what the League does for its member communities and he discussed the concept of placemaking and why it is key to the revitalization of not only Detroit but to all of Michigan. In essence, placemaking is about creating communities in which people want to live, work and play. Detroit already has many outstanding placemaking examples.

The League’s Anthony Minghine, associate executive director and COO, spoke to the council about a variety of municipal finance topics. Several hours were spent laying a foundation upon which the council can use as the bankruptcy ends and the emergency manager prepares to leave. The dialog that took place made clear that the council is preparing for a new day and setting new expectations for reporting and management of the budget. Topics covered included Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) pronouncements, fund types, allowable expenses, understanding financial statements, municipal budgeting, and long range planning considerations.

Other sessions were on lobbying 101; planning and zoning; legal framework of municipalities by the League’s General Counsel William Mathewson; and roles and responsibilities.

Kelly Warren, the League’s director of events, said the goal of the sessions were to give Detroit leaders the core lessons taught through the League’s Elected Officials Academy (EOA) program. Go here for more information about this EOA program.

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

Federal Transportation Funding Remains in Danger of Becoming Insolvent

Congress is unfortunately not any closer to solving the federal transportation crisis. The Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of funding within weeks, yet Congress can’t agree on either a long term solution or short term fix. Recently, Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn) and Patrick Murphy (D-Conn) proposed legislation to boost the federal gas and diesel taxes by 12 cents per gallon over two years, but there is not much optimism that this solution would be considered in time to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent or before MAP-21 expired at the end of September.

There will be growing pressure on Congress to act soon and most expect a very temporary solution to get Congress through until after the November election, which is not great news for local communities, looking at long term planning for transportation projects.

The League will keep you posted on any updates regarding this issue in the coming weeks.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Please Write Letters to Your Local Newspaper in Support of Proposal 1, Personal Property Tax Reform

ppt-logo-2-dearbornThe letter writing phase of the Vote Yes on Proposal 1 campaign is now in full swing and the Michigan Municipal League has made it as easy as possible for you to send letters to the editor of your local newspapers. We’ve written four sample letters for you to choose from here in our Action Center. Just fill out the information and the Action Center will do the rest, including emailing the letter to your local paper.

Background: The League encourages Michigan communities to support Proposal 1 on the August 5, 2014 ballot. This is the proposal that completes the reform of the Personal Property Tax (PPT) and represents months of negotiations and work by the League on behalf of our member communities. This proposal does NOT RAISE TAXES, but it does provide a more stable revenue source for community services, such as police and fire protection, roads, schools, libraries and other essential programs.

The League, as part of the Michigan Strong & Safe Communities coalition, encourages all member communities to join us in endorsing this proposal. In addition to writing letters, please do these things:

1. Have your council/commission/board pass a resolution in support of Proposal 1. A sample resolution is available here. Check out the other communities that have already passed resolutions here. (It’s important to note that it is legal for local government bodies to approve resolutions in support of ballot issues as long as no public tax dollars are expended. So resolutions are OK.) Send your approved resolutions to the League’s Matt Bach at mml.org and will share them with the media and the coalition.

2. Sign up to receive campaign email alerts at www.StrongAndSafeCommunities.com.

Again, we encourage our members to support the full replacement of PPT dollars with a significantly more stable reimbursement mechanism by voting “yes” on Proposal 1 on the August 5, 2014 ballot. If you have any questions about this ballot proposal please contact the League’s Samantha Harkins at sharkins@mml.org and (517) 908-0306.

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

Media Throughout Michigan Report on Great Revenue Sharing Heist Study by Michigan Municipal League

League members talk with the media at a press event about revenue sharing at EVIP March 18 in Lansing.

Media from all parts of Michigan have reported on the Michigan Municipal League’s revenue sharing study that showed the state has diverted $6.2 billion from local communities in the last decade. The League released the study last week during our Capital Conference and sent press releases to dozens of media outlets.

Here is a sampling of some of the articles done so far:
- Michgian cities slam state for holding onto $6.2 billion: Detroit News

- Michigan’s $6.2 billion raid on revenue sharing? See how much local communities lost since 2003: mlive.com statewide

- Wyandotte’s deficit tied to decline in state revenue sharing: The News Heard, the Voice of Downriver

- Revenue sharing could have kept Lincoln Park out of financial crisis, officials say: The News Heard, the Voice of Downriver

- Macomb cities lost more than $100 million due to state cuts: Macomb Daily Tribune

- Michigan Municipal League says Legislature diverted funding; Midland loses $10.9 million: Midland Daily News

- Our View: State turning corner on revenue sharing: Midland Daily News editorial

- Report says Flint lost out on nearly $55 million in revenue sharing in last decade: Flint Journal/mlive.com

- Six things Flint could have paid for with $55 million in revenue sharing: Flint Journal/mlive.com

- Michigan Cities contend lost $6.2 billion in lost revenue: Metro Times, Detroit

The League study showed that communities from Marquette to St. Joseph and everywhere in between are among the Michigan cities and villages that lost hundreds of millions of dollars in statutory revenue sharing over the past decade because the governor and Legislature diverted the funds to the state budget.

If the funds had not been diverted by state lawmakers, the fiscal crises facing many local Michigan communities today might not be so severe.

Statutory revenue sharing funds are earmarked by state law for local communities across Michigan to support essential local services including police and fire, water systems, road maintenance, parks and libraries, and more. The funds represent a percentage of sales tax revenues collected at the local levels. Instead, between 2003 and 2013, the governor and Legislature diverted $6.2 billion in statutory revenue sharing from local communities to plug holes in the state budget and to pay for tax cuts for businesses.

Much of this data was also included in the March/April 2014 edition of the Michigan Municipal League Review magazine for an article titled, “The Great Revenue Sharing Heist” by Anthony Minghine, associate executive director and chief operations officer for the Michigan Municipal League. The article is available at mml.org: http://www.mml.org/advocacy/great-revenue-sharing-heist.html.

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

EVIP Continues to be Problematic for Communities, says League’s Samantha Harkins on MIRS Podcast

Samantha Harkins

The Michigan Municipal League’s Samantha Harkins was a guest today (Feb. 10, 2014) on the MIRSnews.com podcast and covered an array of topics including road funding, the importance of public transit, an update on the personal property tax issue and proposed changes Gov. Snyder wants to make to the Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP). She even discusses Willie Wonka and the Eagles and Don Henley. This is a must listen for League members wanting to hear how the League is fighting for our communities in Lansing. Great job Samantha.

Her part starts around the 8:30 minute mark in the 20-minute weekly podcast. Listen here. Read more from Samantha Harkins and League staff on our legislative blog. Many of the topics Harkins discussed tie into the League’s placemaking message and how having vibrant communities will lead to having a better Michigan. Learn more about placemaking at placemaking.mml.org.

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

Governor Presents Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Including 15% Increase in Statutory Revenue Sharing

This morning the Governor presented his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee. The budget will include a 3 percent increase in funding to the Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP), as well as a 12 percent infusion into a new EVIP line item that eligible communities can tap into, an increase that totals $36 million. Constitutional revenue sharing has also increased by 3 percent totaling $19.4 million. This means there will be an additional $55.4 million coming to cities, villages and townships through these increases. You can view the entire executive recommendation on the State Budget Office’s website (EVIP begins on page 83).

Unfortunately, while we hope this means there is recognition of the importance of reinvesting in communities, the Governor and Legislature have cut funding by more than $6 billion in the last decade. Our municipal finance system is broken, and we will not be able to create prosperous communities without addressing this critical issue.

In addition, there are still significant problems with the EVIP program. Governor Snyder proposes creating a “gold standard” for communities who meet certain criteria. The exact language was not made available, but it could include criteria like high credit ratings and low unfunded liabilities. Communities who meet the “gold standard” would not have to comply with EVIP.

The Governor is also proposing an additional $28.8 million in EVIP for which eligible communities can qualify. It is population based; however, communities who qualify for EVIP would be eligible for this funding if they meet certain criteria that would bump their population numbers by 10 percent for each one they meet.

The criteria are: the “gold standard”; if a community is in the top 25 percent for violent crime; if a community is in the top 25 percent of unemployment or if a community has submitted an approved deficit elimination plan to the Department of Treasury. These new criteria are in addition to EVIP, and frankly they are very confusing. We will be working to make eliminate the current burdensome EVIP criteria, and that will certainly include not adding additional confusing criteria to the mix.

There is no recommendation that we increase transportation funding which is obviously problematic for our local transportation systems. The League has released a statement on the budget that thanks the Governor for recommending an increase in spending but calls on him to address our broken municipal finance system and increase money for transportation.

We look forward to working on both the general government and transportation budgets as hearings start in the coming weeks.

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

15% Increase a Good Start, But Governor’s Budget Plan Does Not Fix Broken Municipal Finance System

Governor Rick Snyder calls for a 15% increase to revenue sharing in his 2015 fiscal year budget, but the plan does not address the state's broken municipal finance system.

The following statement is from Utica Mayor and Michigan Municipal League President Jacqueline Noonan regarding Gov. Rick Snyder’s state budget recommendations announced today (Wednesday, February 5, 2014):

“We appreciate the Governor recommending a 15 percent increase in statutory revenue sharing. We are hopeful that this proposal is an indication that the Governor and Legislature recognize they must stop their annual disinvestment in local communities, and that they understand Michigan will not prosper again until we have local places where people want to live, work and thrive. It is a big step symbolically, but we have a long way to go. While it will mean about $36 million more for local communities, the Legislature and Governor have cut local funding by $6 billion since the late 1990s. Restoring a fraction of lost funding is not cause for jubilation from Main Street, Michigan, and it does not address our broken municipal finance system.

“In addition the Governor’s budget does not call for a real increase in transportation funding. In order for Michigan to be competitive it is imperative that we fix our crumbling roads and bridges and create a real public transit system for our state. Investment in Michigan’s communities, including transportation, is critical for the state to thrive. We are in a global competition for jobs and talent, and failing to invest infrastructure and communities means this is competition we will lose.

“To move Michigan forward, the League, along with numerous partners, has developed a policy vision and plan for Michigan’s cities called the Partnership for Place: An Agenda for a Competitive 21st Century Michigan. You can view this policy agenda here: www.mml.org/advocacy/partnership-for-place.html.”

Federal Government Making Changes to How Communities Deal with Volunteer Firefighters Under the ACA

Recently, several articles have appeared that reference a “glitch” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in which communities with more than 50 employees will be forced to provide coverage for volunteer firefighters. Since this came about, Treasury and the IRS have reviewed the information and just released a statement, saying they will be providing rules soon that addresses this unintended consequence. The release from Treasury can be found by clicking here.

Summer Minnick is Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Congress Set to Finish Appropriation Bills This Week

Congress is back to work after their winter break. Just before the holidays, they passed a two-year budget agreement that lifted the sequester on discretionary programs that were set to go into effect if no action was taken. Now, they have until January 15th to pass all the appropriation bills necessary to outline how those set funding levels will be divided up. There is no agreement yet but negotiations seem to be moving along and are being held closely to the vest by House and Senate leaders. One issue that was not resolved favorably in the budget negotiation was the Build America Bonds (BABs) subsidy payments. So the reduction in those payments will continue. We will update you this week on how the budget breakdowns unfold.

Summer Minnick is Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminick@mml.org.

Federal Budget Conference Committee Holds Hearings

The joint House and Senate Conference Committee on the budget is having hearings to negotiate the 2014 federal budget. The deadline to reach an agreement is December 13. However, as has been the case all year, significant differences remain between House Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA). There was some discussion at the first hearing that there might be small scale agreement put in place that would provide relief from sequestration-driven budget cuts set to go into effect mid-January. The League will continue to update you on federal budget progress as the discussions move forward.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached nat 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.