Federal Judge O’Meara Plans to Issue Ruling on PA 269, ‘Important Case’ Soon

Dowagiac Mayor Donald Lyons explains why he is opposed to PA 269.

Dowagiac Mayor Donald Lyons speaks at a recent news conference opposed to PA 269. He is one of three League members listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Recognizing the urgency of the case, U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara today said he would issue a written ruling soon regarding a lawsuit charging that a “gag order” provision in Public Act 269 is unconstitutional and asking that the law be overturned.

Judge O’Meara heard oral arguments from both sides Thursday morning. Jerome R. Watson spoke as one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs – 17 local government officials and one private citizen. Defendants in the case are Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and the State of Michigan.

“The heart of this case is not about misusing public funds. This case is about abusing First Amendment rights. This case is all about censorship of speech,” said Watson, of the Miller Canfield law firm, during the hearing at the U.S. District Court, Federal Building in Ann Arbor.

Calling it an “important case,” Judge O’Meara said he hoped to issue a decision soon on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. The case is regarding Subsection 57(3) of Public Act 269, which amended Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act. State law already prohibits governmental officials from using tax dollars to advocate for or against a proposal. This new provision goes far beyond what is constitutionally permissible.

Specifically, subsection 57(3) bans local officials or employees of local governments and school districts from using public resources to communicate with voters by giving them factual information about a ballot measure through radio, television, mass mailing or prerecorded telephone messages within 60 days of the election.

There is urgency to this case because more than 100 school districts and local governments have issues on the March 8 ballot and already are being affected by the 60-day gag order time period.

The case is Robert Taylor et al v. Ruth Johnson and the State of Michigan. It was filed Jan. 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, based in Detroit.

Lawsuit plaintiffs include Michigan Municipal League members Roseville Mayor Robert Taylor, Algonac City Manager Douglas R. Alexander, and Dowagiac Mayor Donald Lyons. Other plaintiffs are Tuscola County Commissioner Matthew Bierlein; New Haven Community Schools Superintendent Todd R. Robinson; Riverview Community Schools School Board President Gary O’Brien and Superintendent Russell Pickell; Tecumseh School Board President Kimberly Amstutz-Wild and Superintendent Gary O’Brien; Waterford School District School Board President Robert Seeterlin and Superintendent Keith Wunderlich; Goodrich Area Schools Superintendent Michelle Imbrunone; Clinton Community Schools Superintendent David P. Pray; Byron Area Schools School Board President Amy Lawrence and Superintendent Patricia Murphy-Alderman; Warren Consolidated School District Superintendent Robert D. Livernois; Lansing School District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul; and Stephen Purchase, a private citizen.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at 810-874-1073.

U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin and Macomb County Area Officials Seek Repeal of ‘Gag Order’ in PA 269

Roseville Mayor Robert Taylor kicks off Thursday's news conference at the Roseville Fire Department.

Roseville Mayor Robert Taylor kicks off Thursday’s news conference at the Roseville Fire Department.

Numerous Michigan Municipal League members and mayors from the Macomb County area attended news conference in Roseville Thursday against the “gag order” provision in the newly enacted Public Act 269.

The highly successful, well-attended event at the Roseville Fire Department was organized and led by U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak. More than 75 people attended and participants included current League board members Ed Klobucher, Hazel Park city manager, and Mark Vanderpool, Sterling Heights city manager, as well as past board member and Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley. Other communities represented included Roseville, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Center Line, Mount Clemens, Pleasant Ridge, Berkley, Huntington Woods, St. Clair Shores, Fraser, and Warren. View a list of other attendees here.

“Repeal the gag rule, there’s no other alternative. We don’t want a modification, we want repeal of that provision,” Levin stated at the start of the news conference. “Under the new law – passed under the cloak of darkness – within 60 days of an election, a school district or local government cannot tell people whether a millage question appearing on their ballot is a new tax or a renewal of a previous millage, or even tell residents what their tax dollars would be spent on should a millage be approved. The large gathering today of local leaders from various walks of life vowed to turn up the heat until this misguided provision is repealed.”

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin calls for a repeal of the gag order provision in PA 269.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin calls for a repeal of the gag order provision in Michigan’s PA 269.

Many of the speakers were not just critical of PA 269 (formerly SB 571), but they were angry about it.

A provision in PA 269 places a gag order on ways local officials can communicate with their residents about local ballot questions within 60 days of an election. This gag order is currently in effect for those of with ballot items in the March 8 election and in all subsequent elections. There are more than 100 entities with ballot questions heading to voters March 8, including several in Macomb and Oakland counties.

Specifically, the law prohibits local governments from communicating with voters by giving them factual information about a ballot measure through radio, television, mass mailing or prerecorded telephone messages within 60 days of an election.

“I want this to be perfectly clear,” Klobucher said, “Public Act 269 is nothing less than an attack on the free speech rights of local officials in the state of Michigan to provide information to their constituents. I can’t say that strongly enough.”

Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher speaks against Section 57 in PA 269.

Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher speaks against Section 57 in PA 269.

Klobucher talked about the need to inform voters about a public safety funding consolidation effort involving the city of Hazel Park and the city of Eastpointe a year ago. Voters in both cities overwhelming approved in February of 2015 the creation of the public safety authority that included a 14-mill tax increase. The plan was essential in keeping the two communities financially afloat and out of potential emergency management, he said.

“I cannot believe that I’m standing here in 2016 in the State of Michigan and we are actually debating the issue in which the Michigan Legislature has curtailed our right to educate. Sorry I’m going to continue to open my mouth no matter what, come and arrest me. This is the United States of America and my voice will be heard and I hope all of your voices will be heard as well.”

Jessica Keyser, director of the Ferndale Public Library, spoke on behalf of her colleagues in Macomb and Oakland counties. Keyser, as quoted in the Macomb Daily, said the law violates the most-important responsibility of any librarian: to provide information to the public.

“If they want to throw us in jail, they’ll need to make more room in the cells,” she told the gathering.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor addresses the crowd at Thursday's news event in Roseville.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor addresses the crowd at Thursday’s news event in Roseville.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor said there are already laws in place to prevent local governments from advocating on local ballot issues and a system .

“Last year, the Governor asked Mayors from across the state to share information with our residents about Proposal 1, which was a very complicated ballot measure,” Taylor said. “A few weeks ago, he signed a bill into law that would make me a criminal for doing what he asked me to do less than one year ago. This law needs to be repealed to allow us as public officials to give our residents unbiased, factual information about what we are placing on the ballot for their consideration.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel was also very direct explaining he is “absolutely appalled that this legislature took away the basic Constitutional right of freedom of speech. … This needs to be repealed.”

The League and a coalition of organizations have supported bipartisan efforts to repeal the gag order provision in Section 57 of PA 269 and lift the limitations on local officials trying to give voters important, basic and factual information on local ballot issues.

Warren Mayor James Fouts speaks during the news conference.

Warren Mayor James Fouts speaks during the news conference.

View an article about the Thursday’s news conference by Detroit News reporter Christine Ferretti and another by the Macomb Daily’s Frank DeFrank. View a press release about the event from U.S. Rep. Levin’s office.

Please contact your lawmakers today and ask them to support bills that would repeal Section 57 of PA 269. Read the League’s issue summary, view sample resolutions from Michigan communities seeking repeal, and check out the joint statement calling for repeal, and Chris Hackbarth’s blog detailing League concerns. More.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at (810) 874-1073 and mbach@mml.org.

League, other organizations to Governor Snyder: VETO SB 571

Dearborn Mayor and League President Jack O'Reilly discusses SB 571 during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

Dearborn Mayor and League President Jack O’Reilly discusses SB 571 during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

Governor Rick Snyder needs to veto a campaign finance bill sitting on his desk that would create more problems than it attempts to solve.

This was the basic message of a well-attended news conference Tuesday at the Michigan Municipal League’s Lansing office about SB 571. The event was covered by nearly a dozen members of the media, including radio, TV and print/online. Read articles about the news conference by: the Detroit News, mlive.com, WLNS TV, WILX TV, WOOD TVLansing State JournalDearborn Press & Guide, WSJM radio and subscription news services Gongwer and MIRS. The League’s call to veto this bill (read details about that here from the League’s Chris Hackbarth) seems to be gaining momentum.

Check out this Kalamazoo Gazette article that quotes some Republican lawmakers who are having second thoughts about approving SB 571. View this Detroit News editorial calling for a veto.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett discusses SB 571 during a press conference Tuesday,

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett discusses SB 571 during a press conference Tuesday,

Senate Bill 571 passed the legislature on Dec. 16 with some extensive last-minute revisions. The bill expanded from 12 pages to 53 pages, but the very last change is the one we had the press conference about. Section 57 of the bill would prevent public entities from distributing information about a ballot proposal in the 60 days before an election.

“In other words, in the weeks before an election we cannot use a mailing or local cable outlets to inform our constituents if a measure will raise or lower their tax rate, who it will affect, if it will mean the community will be selling a piece of property and where it is, how a charter change will affect them or anything else,” said Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, president of the Michigan Municipal League.

The legislation would prohibit them from distributing public notices on television, radio and in print media explaining property tax proposals, school bond issues or changes in a local charter.

Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett discusses SB 571.

Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett discusses SB 571.

“Local officials wouldn’t even be able to tell voters in their newsletter who’s running for city council,” said League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin.

Chris Barnett, supervisor of Orion Township, said the legislation amounts to a “gag order” on election officials 60 days prior to an election.

“What (voters) expect me to do is answer questions and give them information,” Barnett said.

Republican Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said perhaps this is a legislative effort to stop tax increases, but that’s not what’s going on in his community. Over the past four years the largely conservative community has considered seven ballot proposals, and only one was a tax increase.

To educate voters on these issues, which are often complicated, Rochester Hills government has turned to YouTube and public access television. But the line could get blurry.

“Can I respond to a resident asking a question about a millage proposal? It’s very concerning,” Barnett said.

A large amount of media attend a news conference Tuesday on SB 571 at the Michigan Municipal League's Lansing office.

A large amount of media attend a news conference Tuesday on SB 571 at the Michigan Municipal League’s Lansing office.

That concern was echoed by Democratic Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly, who said “we’re going to end up having a lot of effort made trying to interpret where that line is.”

Governor Snyder has until Jan. 11 to decide whether to sign or veto the bill and already some Republican lawmakers who initially voted for it are saying it might be worth a second look. Read these articles from the Kalamazoo Gazette and Holland Sentinel that talk to lawmakers willing to revisit the bill.

The press conference was emceed by League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin and featured League Board President and Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett and officials representing the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Sheriffs Association, Middle Cities Education Association, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan County Roads Association, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, and the League of Women Voters. View a joint press release about the issue.

League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin kicks off a news conference on SB 571.

League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin kicks off a news conference on SB 571.

We had nearly a dozen members of the media attend including two Lansing TV stations, Michigan Public Radio, Gongwer, MIRS, mlive, Lansing State Journal, Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.

The League along with numerous communities and organizations have sent letters to Governor Snyder asking him to veto the bill. Read the veto letters from: the League, Michigan Association of Counties, and the Michigan Townships Association.

You can register your opinion about this bill with Governor Snyder during regular business hours at (517) 335-7858. Or go to https://somgovweb.state.mi.us/GovRelations/ShareOpinion.aspx.

Excerpts from articles in mlive and Detroit News about the news conference were including in this blog post.

Matt Bach is Director of Media Relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 810-874-1073.

Michigan Municipal League Members Testify on Dark Stores Issue; Call for Immediate Fix

Chris Hackbarth testifies on the Dark Stores issue along with MTA and MAC officials.

Chris Hackbarth testifies on the Dark Stores issue along with MTA and MAC officials.

(UPDATE: View the League’s new Dark Stores resource web page and view additional Dark Stores-related photos here).

The Michigan Municipal League and some of our members were given the opportunity to offer testify on the Dark Stores tax loophole issue Wednesday before the House Tax Policy Committee. If you’re not aware, the Dark Stores situation involving property tax appeals by Big Box stores like Meijer, Kmart and Wal-mart, is quickly becoming one of the most significant issues, with the biggest implications, facing Michigan communities.

The League testified along with the Michigan Association of Counties and the Michigan Townships Association. We discussed the impact from Dark Store theory of assessment and the need for immediate fixes. We told the committee about the manipulation of property values that big box retailers are perpetrating through the placement of negative use deed restrictions to devalue buildings that they vacate and then point to later on as support for lowering their assessments.

The League has organized a coalition of more than a dozen organizations to take on this issue. View our joint statement previously given to the committee. Along with organizing this coalition, the League is pursuing an aggressive public relations campaign to bring attention to this important issue through radio, television and print media. We urge your assistance with this effort by contacting your Senator and Representative to explain to them the importance of addressing these dark store appeals and restoring a fair and proper valuation system.

Three Rivers City Manager Joseph Bippus and Mayor Thomas Lowry testify on the Dark Stores issue Dec. 9, 2015.

Three Rivers City Manager Joseph Bippus and Mayor Thomas Lowry testify on the Dark Stores issue Dec. 9, 2015.

Among those testifying Wednesday were League members Three Rivers Mayor Thomas Lowry and City Manager Joseph Bippus. They testified as guests of State Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis. Lowry discussed the financial impact of the Dark Stores issue on his city.

“In the last two years we’re pushing well over $300,000 that we had to give back. We only have a $4.3 million budget, we’re approaching 10 percent of (our budget) just from the Dark Store theory,” Lowry told the committee. “We can get an employee for roughly 1 ½ percent of our budget. So for every 1 to 2 percent reduction in our general fund revenues we’re letting an employee go. This absolutely affects the level of services that we can provide to our citizens and our citizens still expect the same level of services.”

In essence, the Dark Store theory is a tax loophole scheme being used by Big Box retailers to lower the amount they pay in property taxes. Retailers such as Meijer, Lowe’s, Target, Kohl’s, Menards, IKEA, Wal-Mart and Home Depot across Michigan are arguing that the market value of their operating store should be based on the sales of similar size “comparable” properties that are vacant and abandoned (aka “dark”) and may not even be located in Michigan. In the last few years, the political appointees on the Michigan Tax Tribunal have upheld this “Dark Store theory” and cut property tax assessments in some cases by as much as 50 percent. This impacts local revenues and subsequently local services and making Michigan one of the only places in the country that assess Big Box retail buildings in this manner. These rulings have resulted in a loss of millions of dollars in tax revenue for local governments across Michigan and now other businesses – not just Big Box stores – such as drug stores and auto repair businesses are attempting to get their taxes lowered based on this same Dark Store argument.

Auburn Hills officials talk with State Rep. Jim Townsend following a House Tax Policy Hearing on the Dark Stores issue Dec. 9, 2015.

Auburn Hills officials talk with State Rep. Jim Townsend following a House Tax Policy Hearing on the Dark Stores issue Dec. 9, 2015.

 

Grand Rapids Attorney Jack Van Coevering, former chief judge and chairman of the Michigan Tax Tribunal, testified about how the Michigan Tax Tribunal rulings have resulted in Big Box property tax assessments that are significantly lower in Michigan compared to other states. He gave multiple examples:

  • In Michigan, Lowes stores are assessed at $22.10 per square foot. In Lowes home state of North Carolina, the same stores are valued at $79.08 per square foot.
  • In Michigan, Menards and Target are valued at $24.97 per square foot. In Menard’s home state of Wisconsin, the sames stores are valued at $61.23 per square foot.
  • Sam’s Clubs and Wal-Mart now average around $25.68 per square foot in Michigan. Studies of those buildings in the home state of Arkansas are being done, but Van Coevering said he expects them to be much higher than they are in Michigan.

Van Coevering added that most of the Big Box stores in Michigan used to be valued in the $55 range per square foot and now the amounts have been cut in half due to the Dark Stores theory.

Escanaba Assessor Daina Norden attends the Dark Stores hearing Dec. 9, 2015.

Escanaba Assessor Daina Norden attends the Dark Stores hearing Dec. 9, 2015.

The House Tax Policy committee led by Representative Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, first met on the issue Nov. 4 and scheduled this follow-up hearing after it ran out of time to hear from all those who wanted to speak on the issue. Officials from Auburn Hills were also present and attempted to testify and unfortunately time ran out and they did not get a chance to speak. Instead, they did submit written testimony and those in attendance were recognized by Chairman Farrington. I want to thank the Auburn Hills contingent for their continued work on this issue – Auburn Hills City Manager Thomas Tanghe; Assessor Michael Lohmeier; and City Attorney Derk Berkerleg.

Escanaba Assessor Daina Norden also attended the hearing.

The House Tax Policy committee has established a work group to study the issue. The work group, being led by House Tax Policy Committee Vice-Chair David Maturen, R-Vicksburg, includes representatives from all sides of the issue, including the League. Check out an in-depth radio video interview of Maturen discussing the issue and the workgroup.

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

League, MAC and MTA Issue Joint Statement on Data Center Abatement Proposals

The Michigan House Tax Policy Committee today is reviewing legislative proposals regarding what’s known as the data center issue and the Michigan Municipal League along with other organizations have distributed a joint statement regarding the legislation.

The biggest concern from the League’s perspective is ensuring that local communities continue to have the ability to establish local control on both existing and future abatement requests, like we have for other economic development abatement tools. One proposal being shopped by the existing data center industry would eliminate the current language providing local involvement in future data center investments. The League and other local government groups are opposed to this effort. We feel it is appropriate to maintain local involvement in any decision on whether to abate taxes as an economic development tool.

Here is the full statement on this issue by the League, the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) and the Michigan Townships Association (MTA):

As the representatives of local government in Michigan, our organizations ― which are responsible for delivering the daily services Michigan residents count on ― wish to clarify our position on the various legislative proposals being discussed for the data center industry, especially those surrounding exemptions for personal property.

Local governments welcome economic development/job creation in this state and our goal is to continue to partner with the state.

If the Legislature and administration believe exemptions for existing firms and their existing equipment in a broad-based personal property exemption framework are necessary, we recommend the exemption for current equipment follow the recently adopted system for small taxpayers and manufacturers, allowing the local units to be fully reimbursed for the reductions to their tax base.

In our view, though, a blanket, state-ordered exemption would be counterproductive, given the existing economic development tools available to reduce/abate personal property for business, including data centers.

Absent a reimbursement mechanism, language similar to what the House and Senate are considering, which allows for a local unit to approve/deny a request for an abatement of data center personal property, is vital. Allowing local governments to be involved in this way ensures they are able to evaluate the local budget costs against the benefits of proposed exemptions, just as they do with all other economic development decisions.

Adoption of one of these approaches will protect existing local government budgets and preserve the role of the local unit in these critical local economic development decisions.
Thank you for your consideration. We welcome the opportunity to discuss further should you have any questions.

– Chris Hackbarth, Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League
– Judy Allen, Director of Government Relations for the Michigan Townships Association
– Steve Currie, Deputy Director for the Michigan Association of Counties

Posted by Matt Bach on behalf of Chris Hackbarth. For more information contact Hackbarth at chackbarth@mml.org and 517-908-0304.

Roads Deal Passes Michigan Legislature, Governor Snyder Prepares to Sign

A school bus travels over bumpy roads. Vote yes for safe roads on May 5.

A school bus travels over bumpy roads.

Late last night the Michigan Legislature narrowly cobbled together the necessary votes to send a road funding package to the Governor Snyder’s desk for signature.

Over the past two-plus years the Michigan Municipal League has consistently called for a long-term sustainable solution that relies heavily on a significant amount of dedicated funding for transportation and doesn’t leave future state and local budgets hanging in the balance. This plan falls far short of that and there simply isn’t enough real revenue for roads in this package.

It’s an over-statement to say that a $1.2 billion plan with $600 million in new revenue and $600 million in General Fund dollars will fix Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure. This is especially true given that two-thirds of the new revenue will simply replace General Fund money already budgeted for roads in the current fiscal year and the plan doesn’t fully phase in for almost a decade.

The framework of the plan includes 7.3 cents gas tax increase and a 20 percent increase in registration fees. Those increases don’t go into affect until January 1, 2017, meaning no new money will be infused into the system for 14 more months. Gas and diesel taxes will be indexed to inflation but not until 2022.

Additionally, the $600 million in General Fund revenue will be phased-in over three years beginning in FY 19 and relies on future Legislatures – some of whom aren’t even elected yet – to appropriate those General Fund dollars to uphold the promises of this current Legislature. History has proven that similar earmarks of this nature have gone unfulfilled.

Plan Details:

HB 4736  increases passenger and commercial vehicle registrations fess by 20 percent per vehicle beginning January 1, 2017. The bill provides for additional increases for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle registrations. These changes result in a $200 million revenue increase for transportation.

•  HB 4738, HB 4614, and HB 4616, provide for gas and diesel tax increases to 26.3 cents, an increase of 7.3 cents per gallon beginning on January 1, 2017. The bills also implement diesel parity, institute a process for taxing alternative fuels, and tie the fuel tax rate to inflation beginning in 2022. These changes result in a $400 million revenue increase for transportation.

HB 4370 dedicates $600 million of income tax revenue to transportation phased in over three years, $150 million in FY 19, $325 million in FY 20 and $600 million in FY 21. will This bill also provides $200 million in tax relief by expanding the Homestead Property Tax Credit. According to both the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies that when fully phased-in this will reduce the state General Fund by more that $800 million, or roughly 7 percent.

HB 4737 requires MDOT and local road agencies to secure warranties, where possible, for construction and preservation projects over two million dollars and mandates new reporting requirements for MDOT and local road agencies on those warranties.

HB 4737 also creates a “Roads Innovation Task Force” that will form no later than December 1, 2015 and prepare a report no later than March 1, 2016. The Roads Innovation Task Force will evaluate road materials and construction materials that will allow MDOT to build roads that could last at least 50 years, will focus on materials and processes that may cost more upfront but produce life-cycle construction and maintenance savings, and concentrates on longer-term time frames that seek to maximize value of the taxpayers of this state

Additionally, HB 4737 creates a Roads Innovation Fund. This fund will collect the first $100 million each fiscal year starting in 2016-17 from fuel taxes and every year thereafter. The funds can only be released once the House and Senate approve a one-time concurrent resolution approving the report done by the Roads Innovation Task Force. Those funds shall be appropriated only for the use of specific higher quality, longer life cycle road construction purposes. Once the concurrent resolution is approved the fund shall no longer annually receive the allocation.

SB 414 creates an automatic rollback of the income tax. The rollback occurs when General Fund growth exceeds the rate of inflation plus 1.425%. The first rollback could not begin until January 1, 2023.

HB 4610 allows townships contributing 50% or more to a road project to require an RFP for pavement projects over $50,000 and gravel projects over $25,000.

HB 4611 requires an RFP process for all projects over $100,000 for MDOT. Local road agencies must do RFPs for all projects, excluding routine maintenance, over $100,000, unless the local road agency affirmatively finds that they can do it themselves for less.

The League believes this plan is overly reliant on existing tax dollars and very likely establishes a foundation for potential cuts to local police and fire protection, higher education, economic development and our ability to attract and retain a talented workforce. It fails to address the key principles for which we consistently advocated – a long-term sustainable solution that invests in our road network, protection of essential services, and fiscal responsibility in regards to future state and local government budgets.

View a League media statement on the roads plan passed by the Legislature.

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

Proposal 1 Offers Michigan’s Last, Best Chance to Fix Roads with Guaranteed Funding

John LaMacchia discusses Proposal 1 at a recent Burton City Council town hall meeting.

John LaMacchia discusses Proposal 1 at a recent Burton City Council town hall meeting.

The fate of Proposal 1 will be decided by voters next week (Tuesday, May 5), and there is one thing guaranteed about the outcome: If it passes it will provide a solution to fix Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure and will guarantee funding for transportation, local government, schools. And if it fails? No one can guarantee a solution out of the state Legislature.

That’s the simple message from the Michigan Municipal League’s John LaMacchia, legislative associate, in his many speaking engagements, media interviews and community meetings about Proposal 1 in recent days, weeks and months. LaMacchia has been the League’s voice on Proposal 1 after the League board unanimously endorsed the road funding package in January.

“The one thing that those for and against Proposal 1 agree on is the longer we take to come up with a transportation funding plan, the worse are roads are going to get,” LaMacchia said.

If Proposal 1 passes, it would guarantee, for the first time, that every penny we pay in state fuel taxes goes to transportation.

Bad-bridge-small-for-webLansing would no longer be able to divert taxes paid on gas to some other state program or service.

Here is some additional information about what Proposal 1 would do:

Ballot Proposal:

  • Raises the sales tax from 6% to 7%
  • Exempts sales tax from motor fuel
  • Removes higher education funding from the School Aid Fund
  • Dedicates a portion of the use tax to K-12 education

Statutory Changes Effective Only if Proposal 1 Passes:

  • Increases the tax charged on motor fuel
  • Eliminates the depreciation on vehicle registration fees
  • Increase registration fees on the heaviest trucks
  • Requires more competitive bidding and road warranties
  • Restores the Earned Income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal level

Revenue Generated:

We would fix more roads instead of just fill potholes if Proposal 1 passes May 5.

We would fix more roads instead of just fill potholes if Proposal 1 passes May 5.

Fixing our roads will make them safer by repairing dangerous potholes and improving roadway design. Today, many drivers swerve to avoid dangerous potholes or lose control of their vehicles as a result of flat tires.

According to TRIP, a national transportation research organization, roadway design is a contributing factor in about one-third of fatal traffic crashes. Between 2008 and 2012, 4,620 people died in Michigan car accidents – an average of 924 fatalities per year.

For more information about Proposal 1 go to the League’s Safe Roads Yes! webpage.

To learn more about the Safe Road Yes! campaign go here. View here a series of question and answer videos about Proposal 1. Check out what MML members have to say about Proposal 1. See how much your community will get in additional road dollars and constitutional revenue sharing if Proposal 1 is approved. View which Michigan communities have passed resolutions in support of Proposal 1.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org. The League’s John LaMacchia can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org.

Is there a Plan B if Proposal 1 Fails? Why are Michigan’s Roads so Bad? Find Out in New League videos

Fowler plan bIt’s just two weeks until voters decide the fate of Proposal 1 on May 5 and the Michigan Municipal League has just posted a series of question and answer videos to address some of the concerns you may have about the road funding plan.

The videos come from a panel discussion during the League’s 2015 Capital Conference that took place in March.

The general session, “Driving Toward Safer Roads with Proposal 1,” was moderated by Roger Martin, of the Martin Waymire public relations firm and spokesman for the Safe Roads Yes! coalition. Panelists were Mike Flanagan, state superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education; Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan; Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell; and Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

View all the League’s Proposal 1 information here, including an updated list of all the Michigan communities that have passed resolutions in support of Proposal 1.

Steudle bad roadsHere are the questions posed and subsequent answers. The videos are all very short:

The League also has a new slide show illustrating how much in new money for roads and constitutional revenue sharing each Michigan community will receive if Proposal 1 passes. The numbers are substantial. It’s a long video but it’s in alphabetical order so you can advance to the parts you want to see. You can also view a pdf of that video here, which will allow you to advance through the list more easily.

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

LaMacchia: ‘Roads Will Only Get Worse’; Vote Yes on Proposal 1 for New Road Funding in Michigan

About 60 people attend a symposium on Proposal 1 Tuesday in Sterling Heights.

About 60 people attend a symposium on Proposal 1 Tuesday in Sterling Heights.

Last night the Michigan Municipal League hosted a “Safe Roads Symposium” on Proposal 1 in Sterling Heights. The event was attended by about 60 people, including multiple officials from the city of Sterling Heights and surrounding communities.

The League’s John LaMacchia, Legislative Associate, was one of several officials who spoke on the issue as part of a panel during the symposium.

Other event panelists were Gilda Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy; Dr. Robert Livernois, Superintendent of Warren Consolidated Schools; Dr. Christine Johns, Superintendent of Utica Community Schools; and Carmine Palombo, Deputy Executive Director of SEMCOG.

During the informative event, LaMacchia gave a brief history of how Proposal 1 came about and why the Michigan Municipal League supports the initiative heading to voters on May 5.

LaMacchia encouraged those attending to vote yes on Proposal 1.

Panelists get ready for the symposium.

Panelists get ready for the symposium.

“Michigan now spends less per resident on roads than any other state. Let me say that again: Michigan is now dead last in per-capita funding for roads. We’ve neglected properly invest in our roads and bridges and everywhere you travel in this state you can see the repercussions of that. This proposal will constitutionally guarantees that every penny we pay in state fuel taxes goes to transportation while protecting funding for local governments and schools. This proposal is not perfect … nothing from Lansing ever is. But it does provide a long-term sustainable solution that will fix our roads, and the only guarantee we will have on May 5th if this fails is that our roads will get worse. Vote Yes!”

For additional information on Proposal 1 go here: http://www.mml.org/advocacy/safe-roads-yes-neutral-info.html.

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

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

 

 

League Members, Board President Bolen Hear from President Obama at NLC Conference

League members hear President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. Monday morning.

League members hear President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. Monday morning. Photo credit: C-SPAN.

Michigan Municipal League President Dick Bolen led a Michigan contingent to Washington D.C. this week to attend the 50th Annual National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference.  The group had the opportunity to hear President Barack Obama talk Monday morning.

The President’s speech was live streamed by the White House and C-SPAN. You can watch it here.

Bolen, Mayor Pro Tem of Wakefield, and several other Michigan Municipal League members are among more than 2,000 community leaders from throughout the nation to attend the conference this week. The officials will meet with their congressional leaders, attend education sessions and network with officials from other state Leagues and cities.

The focus of this year’s NLC conference is federal priorities and issues facing cities and towns across the country.

Also during the conference, Dan Gilmartin, League CEO and executive director, was named to the NLC’s 2016 Presidential Election Task Force. Gilmartin was one of 17 officials from throughout the nation to serve on the task force, said NLC Board Member Patricia Lockwood, Fenton Mayor Pro Tem. View a press release about this appointment here.

Go here for other conference highlights.

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