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What Republican rule hath wrought

by: Eric B.

Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 12:10:20 PM EDT

Up here in the sticks, our municipal leadership has been pretty good over the years at navigating through an increasingly failing model of funding local governments mostly brought on by elected state leadership that just cuts stuff. That's meant chopping down shared revenue for local governments, and appropriations for school districts and universities (and ignoring the Mackinac Center's lame attempts to label these direct appropriations as subsidies). Last year, I think I maybe mentioned that the city of Mount Pleasant is now considering one of two options: Raising local millage rates or instituting an income tax. Tonight, there's a hearing.

A structural gap exists between revenues and expenditures in the City's general fund budget, largely due to more than 10 years of cuts in state funding. In order to stabilize the city's financial picture for the long-term, the City Commission is considering implementation of an income tax accompanied by a decrease in the property tax millage OR an increase in the city millage rate for 2014 and future years.

Last year, I wrote in a column for the local paper that this was being forced on the city not because our elected leaders want things like gold plated swingsets in our parks or police officers dressed in uniforms of the rarest of silks, but because of incompetent, short-sighted leadership in Lansing. In response, one of our local elected leaders, a fiscally conservative Republican, wrote to me to say that not only did he agree but that in conversations with our representative and senator that he got lip service but the impression that they just didn't get it.

Both choices would dig directly into my pocket, by the way, and I'm a very poor person. I live and work in the city, so my paycheck would go down as a result, and my landlord will have to raise my rent to cover the millage hike. In fact, I was looking to move to a bigger, better place, and this conversation goes a long way to killing that.

The city has basically done everything right in holding down costs while trying to not cut services, but it's gotten next to no support from the state. So, it's being forced to raise taxes just so's conservatives in the state Legislature can pat themselves on the back about pursuing low tax rates with such aggression.

Eric B. :: What Republican rule hath wrought
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In which Eric rebuts his own EM argument
Can't help but laugh here. Tiny Mt. Pleasant is struggling oh, so hard because of the meanie Republicans divesting from cities and local communities across the state. But Detroit? Bring on the appointed Snyder-czars. Maybe crazy ole' John Olumba was right about latent racism among liberals.  

This is the dumbest thing you've said yet...
There's a considerable difference between hiking taxes and issuing bonds to cover operating expenses. We also don't face the specter of annual shortfalls in the pension fund. Also, there are cops available when you call them. Also, our streetlights are on at night. Also, our former mayor wasn't today found guilty of massive acts of corruption during his time in office (incompetent management and corruption tend to go hand in hand).

My community isn't in a financial emergency. Detroit is. The difference isn't that we're racists.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
Kwame's fault, of course. Insane. Big 3 didn't tank? Foreclosures didn't devastate the neighborhoods? State of MI didn't withhold massive amounts of revenue sharing?

The difference is you complain about the state's tactics when it affects little Mt. Pleasant, but disregard them when they lead to disastrous consequences in Detroit.

[ Parent ]
You've become incoherent
At first, there's no emergency. Then, it was an emergency contrived by Republicans in Lansing. Then, it's the fault of the Big Three (why, I wonder, is Auburn Hills not in financial distress). Then, it's the housing crisis.

The fact of the matter is that there are communities all over southeastern Michigan that were hit hard by falling property values and layoffs in the auto industry. Not all of them wound up in financial emergencies. It is not racist to point out that Detroit did because of corruption, stupidity and incompetence in how it was managed.

Next thing, you'll be telling us that the failure of the Lions to make the playoffs was involved.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
I never said there was no emergency. I never said it was contrived by Republicans in Lansing. I never said it was the fault of the Big 3.

If you can't comprehend that there can be more than one reason for any given event occurring, I can't help you. The fact that you think it's all because of "corruption, stupidity and incompetence" says enough about your ability to grasp municipal finance issues.

Your racial insensitivity is not my main focus, just an interesting fact to point out as you continue your Mackinac Center-themed arguments.

[ Parent ]
I'm just about finished being called racist by you
The fact that you think it's all because of "corruption, stupidity and incompetence" says enough about your ability to grasp municipal finance issues.

Says the person who thinks you can use one-time payments to address structural deficits.

I'm done arguing with you. You're not even arguing. At this point, you're just name calling. In fact, I don't think you've made a coherent argument all day long. It's just been one long screed of anger from you. Now that you're questioning whether I'm a racist of something, I have no more time for it.

By the way, Kwame Kilpatrick incurred debt to address deficits. Do you suppose that maybe, perhaps this unique brand of incompetent administration has more to do with Detroit's financial emergency than a conspiracy by state Republicans to take over the city?

That's a rhetorical question. I'm not really interested in how you'd wave that off.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
I'm just observing your comments
Too bad you can't read mine :(

I never said anything about one-time payments. Has the Eric B. account been hacked by Mackinac Center hacks?

[ Parent ]
Yes you did.
You believe that if the state released the shared revenue money it owes the city that the city could exit its financial emergency. That's a one-time payment that you think can solve structural deficits. Or, as I guess it's known, racist Mackinac Center accounting.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
You're so off
I never said that.

Having brought it up, would it help? Sure. But I never said that was the solution. Do you write for CapCon? ;)

[ Parent ]
More evidence
keeps piling up. See here: http://www.lansingstatejournal...

[ Parent ]
That's not evidence of anything
That's a very familiar story to all of us. Not every Michigan city is in a financial emergency, however.

I wonder why that is. (I'll give you an answer: It doesn't involved racism.)

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
"Financial emergency"
Sorry, podunk towns like Mt. Pleasant don't take in or expend enough money to really come to a state of 'financial emergency.' Real cities do. Takeovers, which have failed for decades, do not solve the issues.

[ Parent ]
On this, you're factually in error
Benton Harbor has a population that is less than half of Mount Pleasant's, and it was placed under an emergency financial manager (P.A. 72) under Jennifer Granholm. You might remember Benton Harbor from Rachel Maddow's original reporting that P.A. 4 was going to lead to Roscommon County sold off to Dow ... which, needless to say, has yet to happen.

So, in trying to be purposefully offensive and generally trolling, you just frankly came off looking uninformed and unhinged.


Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
Good one
Three Oaks had an EM too and is no doubt smaller than Mt. Pleasant. We're not talking about the exceptions to the rule!

[ Parent ]
Detroit is the Victim of GOP Politics
Eric:  You are so right but it is a structural problem in municipal finance that is anti-city and anti-Detroit.  Before the great structural shift in municipal and Detroit finance, Detroit was home to two million people.  This meant an infrastructure built to serve about three times its current population.

Detroit's financial crisis is a symptom of an inequitable, municipal tax structure.  Cities have been made into high-taxing communities where income taxes can be levied on residents and commuters along with higher millage tax limits.  Michigan's 1964 constitution, dominated by a 2/3 majority of Republicans, halved property tax assessments and kept millage limits the same.  It also authorized the levying of city income taxes to make up the loss in tax revenue.  For Detroit this great harm was compounded by an income tax that was much higher than for other cities. Anti-Detroit politics had triumphed.

Adding this tax inequity to what makes urban living possible in charter and general law townships, it is small wonder that population in Michigan has shifted to the townships. Improved highways have enabled long-distance commuting.  Extension of electric utilities to rural areas has made urban amenities available everywhere.  Urban sprawl has this Michigan twist of inequitable taxation.

Michigan's tax structure should eliminate the inequitable taxation among municipalities.  A similar tax reform occurred for school districts and disbursements should occur for municipalities without the regulation by state government whim.  

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