LANSING, Mich. –With nearly a 1 billion dollar surplus projected, counties see this as the perfect time for the state to make good on its promise to pay back local units of government for their sacrifices to the state’s budget over the last decade.
The state has balanced the budget on the backs of local government by siphoning off more than $6 billion from revenue sharing to local units over the last decade. Counties in particular, have been a selfless partner, saving the state more than a billion dollars since 2005. This budgetary concession was made in an effort to help the state with its budget problems, with the understanding that the state would honor their funding obligations in the future. This promise has not been fully honored and the state continues to short counties by more than 20% each year.
Ignoring the statutory commitment to fund counties at the level required has become a habitual practice for the state. Counties are already stretched to their financial limit, making it difficult for them to pay for the multitude of state mandated services. County services may not be flashy, but they are critical for safe and functional communities. These state mandated services include courts, jails, 911, foster care, sheriffs, elections and the public health system.
“The tide has turned for state revenues and we are thrilled Michigan is turning around,” said the Michigan Association of Counties (M.A.C.) Board of Directors President Shelley Pinkelman. “Unfortunately, local governments are at a disadvantage. Our ability to recover from the recent recession is disproportionately slower than it is for state government and without the state honoring their financial obligations to local units, we will continue to struggle to provide the most basic of local services. It is critical that the legislature recognizes this and honors their statutory obligation to fund local government services.”
The legislature could allocate a mere $40 million to make counties whole in FY 2014.
The current model of mandating counties to deliver services on behalf of the state government without paying for those services is unsustainable. After nearly a decade of the state shirking their financial responsibility to local governments, the time to repay is now.
The Michigan legislature is on the verge of sending SB 636 to the governor that will take away the authority of the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to oversee the discontinuance of basic landline telephone service and instead places that authority with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who has not been in the business of regulating Michigan telephone service.
MAC, along with AARP, Law Enforcement, 911 Service providers and others oppose the bill for the following reasons:
- The elimination of the requirement to provide basic landline service will inhibit the ability of many Michigan residents to call for emergency help.
- Eliminating landline service and replacing it with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and cellular phone coverage is unreliable due to sketchy coverage, extended power outages and the inability of law enforcement to identify the exact location of the caller.
- The bill calls for comparable and reliable service, but does not ensure comparable cost and will only require landline service if a consumer files a complaint with the MPSC. This places a significant burden on the consumer who likely does not know who the MPSC is nor how to file a complaint with them.
- VOIP, the alternative to home phone landline service, requires a cable running to the house, but the build-out of this technology is not there yet, nor is there any guarantees that this will be completed prior to the discontinuance of landline service.
- Cellular coverage may be available, but it is not reliable, cannot pinpoint location, and calls are often dropped at inopportune times.
- There is nothing in the bill that would prohibit the providers from requiring a “bundled” service for access to a VOIP or cellular telephone line.
- 911 service providers cannot access critical information about a call if it comes from a VOIP line or a cellular line. Traditional land lines convey information about medical equipment, special needs children in the home, elderly in the home, and the like.
- Michigan already has a statute that provides for a process for the landline provider to get out of providing the service, but the proponent of this legislation wants to avoid those requirements and skip Michigan’s oversight in favor of a further removed federal body.
Please contact your State Representative and ask them to put public safety first and vote no on SB 636.
Landline Elimination Information Maps: SB 636 MPSC Slides