A post regarding politics in Michigan.

If you haven’t heard, there are a few changes coming this year in Michigan, similar to those in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.  While I will focus on Michigan in this post, I think it’s acceptable to compare these changes to the other Midwestern states.   The Michigan legislature, both the House and the Senate, recently passed a set of bills that change the landscape for which public employees and local governments do business.  Let’s start with the House bill.

House Bill 4214: This bill enables the Michigan Treasurer or a school district superintendent to conduct a financial review of a local government (city, township, etc.) or a school district (such as DPS).  If the district or government is in financial stress, then that district or government must come up with a plan for stability and recovery.  IF a district or government is placed into receivership, then the Governor is required to place an emergency financial manager in place.  The powers of this financial manager include the ability to terminate or change any contracts or negotiations the district or government has with a union or company.  Furthermore, the financial manager is able to dissolve or unincorporate a local government or school district, recommend consolidation with another, or recommend reorganization of the body, including the termination of the chief administrative officer (including elected officials).

You can find the passed bill at the link above and the summary of that bill here.

Senate Bills 157 and 158: These bills are similar to House Bill 4214 and work alongside it.  These bills enable the State to manage schools in the lowest performing 5% tier, reject, modify, or terminate any union contracts, prohibit the renegotiation of union contracts or any other contracts to become collective, and exempt local governments from entering union contracts with school districts.

You can find the passed bill at the link above and the summary of that bill here.

My thoughts on this matter are that we have to do what it takes to balance the budget. However, I feel that there are a few large mis-steps in the path to economic recovery.  The first is that the tax brackets in this state are incredibly regressive, meaning that the largest tax burdens are on the poor and old.  Furthermore, the management of the cities by emergency financial managers, who are appointed, not elected, feels like democracy undermined.  Therefore, I think these changes could be much better with an increase of taxes all around, not just on the lower-income groups.

Finally, if we’re trying to make the state better for itself, we have to revamp our urban policy alongside our economic policy. I see one huge benefit from Snyder’s proposal: jobs.  Furthermore, in combination with the ability to renegotiate a lot of contracts: governmental efficiency.  So, if we see Metropolitan Detroit receive a lean and mean regional government, we might be able to put some policies in place that actually promote smart growth, such as a strong urban core (aka jobs in Detroit), public transit, strict development restrictions, such as Portland or Grand Rapids’ greenbelts, then there could be lots of benefits.

In the end, while I fundamentally disagree with the methodology of Snyder’s budget and the recent legislature, I hope it brings about some of the changes that Snyder actually campaigned for: economic growth, recovery for Detroit, and good education in the State of Michigan.  Meanwhile, there are plenty of sensations running through the works, including this video and efforts to recall Snyder. Let’s see what happens.


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