State House Considering Revenue Sharing Package

The League's Chris Hackbarth testifies about the proposed revenue sharing bills Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 in the House committee along with officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association.

The League’s Chris Hackbarth testifies about the proposed revenue sharing bills Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 in the House committee along with officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association.

Following the introduction last week of the 16-bill OPEB reform package, three additional bills were introduced in the House to create a structure that attempts to address the chronic under-funding of revenue sharing for local units of government.

Lead by chief sponsor, former Walker city mayor, Rep. Rob VerHeulen, House Bills 5314-5316 do three main things:

 

  1. Creates separate city, village, township (CVT), and county Revenue Sharing Trust funds to protect against future revenue sharing reductions. These trust funds would receive dollars earmarked directly from Michigan’s sales tax to provide the funding for statutory revenue sharing for CVTs based upon the current budget appropriation amount (approx $248 million for CVTs).
  2. Provides an initial attempt at increasing revenue sharing by growing the current statutory appropriation by $100 million over the next 20 years from the sales tax. The bills would divide these new funds ($5 million/year) equally between counties, cities, villages, and townships.
  3. Secures future Personal Property Tax (PPT) reimbursement revenue that is available above what is needed for 100% reimbursement, as an additional down payment on revenue sharing restoration.

The League’s Chris Hackbarth testified Tuesday about the bills in the House Competitiveness Committee along with officials from the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Townships Association.

The League supports the bill package in concept and continues to advocate for a plan that restores the revenue sharing cuts of the past decade and distributes dollars appropriately. The three bills were voted out of the House committee Tuesday and await action on the House floor.

Rep. VerHeulen issued a press release about the package and explained it would be funded through Michigan’s sales tax and would give a level of security to local communities in the case of an economic downturn.

“There have been compounding factors that have all led us to where we are at right now in areas across the state,” VerHeulen stated in the release. “Our communities face a funding crisis. They cannot make reliable payments into retirement systems for their employees, including police and fire, and money is often being diverted away from vital public services in an effort to keep up with funding those retirement benefit plans or other budget necessities.”

The bills could be considered in the full House by the end of the year.

Posted by Matt Bach, the League’s director of communications, on behalf of Chris Hackbarth. For details contact Hackbarth at chackbarth@mml.org.

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.

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.

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.

Urgent – Please contact Michigan Legislators today seeking support of increase to revenue sharing

UPDATE: The 4.8 percent increase is now included in the latest budget agreement so the sample letters to the lawmakers have been removed. Read more about this good news for Michigan communities.

Michigan Municipal League Board President David Lossing sent letters to state senators and representatives Tuesday (May 21, 2013) asking for their support of the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2014 general government budget recommendation, which includes a 4.8-percent increase in funding for statutory revenue sharing, now known as the Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP).

The League is asking you to also contact your state lawmakers today on this extremely important issue. To make it convenient, you can use the League’s automated letter service by going here to our Action Center. It is imperative you contact your lawmakers today or tomorrow as we expect a vote on the budget this week or early next week.

While this Senate proposal does not come close to replacing the $6 billion in local revenue sharing cut by Lansing legislators and governors since 2001, it will at least help stop the bleeding and provide desperately needed funds for local police and fire protection, road and bridge maintenance, and other essential local services.

Here is an excerpt of the letter from League President Lossing, mayor of Linden:

As the state’s economy slumped over the past dozen years, past decisions made by the Michigan Legislature to cut local revenue sharing were used to make up for the difference in the state’s budget gap. Now that Michigan is on the rebound, this modest increase to statutory revenue sharing adopted by the Michigan State Senate is reasonable and begins the process of ending fiscal pain felt by many of our communities. Cities and villages across our great state, including the city of Linden, have been tightening our fiscal belts for several years to weather this financial storm.

Now is the time to begin making strategic investments in our communities by increasing statutory revenue sharing in the FY 2013-14 budget, to make “Better Communities, Better Michigan.”

View a version of the Senate letter here. View a version of the House letter here.

The League encourages all our members to contact their lawmakers today on this issue. Feel free to write your own letter and/or use the sample letter provided in our Action Center. You can go here to get the contact information for your state officials.

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

League Encourages State to Put Surplus Toward Restoring Revenue Sharing Cuts

LANSING, Michigan – A report saying the state of Michigan has nearly $400 million has the Michigan Municipal League requesting that the state use some of that surplus to restore massive cuts made to local revenue sharing. A consensus report released today (May 15, 2013) by state economists shows that revenues for the current fiscal year are $396.9 million higher than expected for the general fund for the current 2012-13 fiscal year.

The Michigan Municipal League has responded to this announcement by issuing a press release to media throughout Michigan calling for a portion of that surplus to go back to Michigan communities. View the League’s press release here. View an mlive.com article about the budget surplus that includes mention of the League’s request.

Here’s a portion of the press release:
“Over the past dozen years, the Legislature and governor have cut local revenue sharing by more than $6 billion, breaking promise after promise and ignoring statutes that require the appropriations to local communities,” said Daniel Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, in the press release. “Instead of appropriating the funds for local services, Lansing used the funds to fill holes in the state budget, to cut taxes, and for other state programs and services. While we recognize the state’s economy was in bad shape, and many state budgets were cut, local revenue sharing paid a far higher price than all the others.”

Gilmartin said the state budget surplus gives the Legislature and governor the opportunity to return some of the cuts they made to local services that keep people safe in their neighborhoods, keep local drinking water clean, maintain local roads and bridges, fund local parks and libraries, and more.

“The state Senate has proposed a 4.8-percent increase in local revenue sharing for the 2014 state budget. Given the anticipated state budget surplus, anything less than that is unacceptable and unconscionable,” Gilmartin said. “I promise that local leaders and their constituents will remember if the Legislature fails to invest part of the surplus to restore some of the massive cuts Lansing has made to revenue sharing and essential local services.”

Gilmartin said that using the surplus to restore cuts to revenue sharing “becomes critical” if the personal property tax (PPT) law passed by the Legislature in December is approved by Michigan voters next year.The PPT law would cut local taxes paid by local businesses to local communities across the state by hundreds of millions of dollars. The law will not take effect unless it is approved by Michigan voters in August 2014. The Legislature has not yet voted to put the question onto the ballot.

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