MAC praises new report on vital role of county services

michigan-county-mapA new report unveiled at MAC’s 2017 Legislative Conference could help the state take a broader view of the importance of proper funding for county services, MAC’s Deena Bosworth told MIRS News Service Thursday.

The study, Counties in Michigan: An Exercise in Regional Government, details the advantages that counties already offer in the pursuit of greater collaboration on public services and improved efficiency.

“(CRC) is not advocating a one-size-fits-all solution to  regional  government  in  Michigan,  but  rather  a  move to thinking of local government more in terms
of the region and what county government can do in a more effective and economical manner than a city, village, or township can do,” the report concludes.

Speaking at the MAC conference Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder said Michigan should look to invest more in local services. MAC will be urging the governor and his administration to work with the Legislature to translate that concept into tangible changes in state budgets and regulations as the legislative session continues in 2017.

Shiawassee County rejoins MAC

shiawasseeThanks to a vote by the Shiawassee Board of Commissioners this month, MAC will enter 2017 with all 83 counties as dues-paying members.

“This is excellent news for MAC and, more importantly, our members,” said incoming Executive Director Steve Currie. “Our collective voice will now be stronger at the State Capitol in a year when we are seeking major reforms to aid county governments on financing public services.”

Shiawassee County Board Chairman Hartmann Aue cited MAC’s services and the county’s financial improvements for the move.

“In two years, Shiawassee County has completely changed our financial condition. We have generated a record surplus of nearly $800,000, paid down long term debts by more than $850,000 and have grown our ‘rainy day fund’ from $23,000 to more than $400,000. … I felt now was the time to rejoin MAC and provide the Board of Commissioners additional resources to govern successfully,” he said. “The services and trainings provided by MAC will only help Shiawassee County continue the positive momentum from the foundation set in place by the 2015-2016 Board.”

With its membership, Shiawassee now can leverage the advocacy, educational and networking opportunities MAC offers all its members, plus special service arrangements with such business partners as Nationwide Retirement Solutions, Allstate Benefits and Lincoln Financial.

Republicans build on big majority in county commissioner seats

mac-michigan-map-partisan-board-stats-11-10-2016Michigan Republicans expanded their already large margin in county commissioner seats in the Nov. 8 General Election, a MAC review of unofficial results shows.

The GOP now holds 432 seats, with one vacancy in Ontonagon County still to be filled. That’s up from 396 seats after the 2014 elections, for a net gain of at least 36 seats.

Democrats fell to 182 seats, while independents and third-party members hold 7 seats.

Republican majorities will sit on boards governing 63 of Michigan’s 83 counties; Democratic majorities will control 19 boards, while the Keweenaw board does not have a partisan majority.

Partisan control shifted in five counties due to election results:

  • Arenac (D to R)
  • Clare (R to D)
  • Isabella (D to R)
  • Keweenaw (D to no partisan majority)
  • Lake (D to R)

Of the 622 commissioners in 2017, 160 will be new to the office, not counting the vacancy in Ontonagon. The turnover rate of 26 percent is consistent with historical results.

Republican-majority counties: Alcona, Allegan, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Barry, Benzie, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Clinton, Crawford, Dickinson, Eaton, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Houghton, Huron, Ionia, Iosco, Isabella, Jackson, Kalkaska, Kent, Lake, Lapeer, Leelanau, Lenawee, Livingston, Luce, Mackinac, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Menominee, Midland, Missaukee, Monroe, Montcalm, Montmorency, Newaygo, Oakland, Oceana, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Ottawa, Presque Isle, Roscommon, St. Clair, St. Joseph, Sanilac, Schoolcraft, Shiawassee, Tuscola, Van Buren, Wexford

Democratic-majority counties:  Gogebic, Ontonagon, Iron, Baraga, Marquette, Alger, Delta, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Ingham, Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb, Genesee, Saginaw, Bay, Gladwin, Clare, Ogemaw

Click here to see a larger version of the partisan-control map.

MAC still sees simple, direct election on 1-cent sales tax boost as best way to address roads crisis

transport funds 10-17-14The Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) reiterated today its longstanding support for a statewide vote to increase the sales tax by 1 penny, with all new funds generated dedicated to road work.

Jon Campbell, president of the MAC Board of Directors and an Allegan County commissioner, said in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat of Proposal 1:

“Voters in Michigan are telling public servants three things: They want more money for our crumbling roads. They want a direct, simple plan. They want to ensure new revenue is dedicated to roads.

“More than a year ago, the MAC Board of Directors decided the best plan for our state was a 1-penny increase in the sales tax dedicated to roads. We still see it as a simple, direct approach that raises the funds to address the crisis. And, based on the EPIC-MRA poll results released May 5, nearly two-thirds of voters would support it.

“Our membership, 622 county commissioners across the state, is eager to work with the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder to quickly and decisively handle this challenge.”

MAC committees to review hotel taxes, fracking fees

MAC committees on the environment and economic development are tackling some intriguing issues in their sessions on April 17.

The Economic Committee will be looking at the value of altering state law on hotel/motel taxes. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has produced a handy one-page summary of what current law allows.

The Environmental Committee will hear from Krystle Sacavage of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission about that state’s regulations and “impact fees” on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

If you are a commissioner interested in serving on one of MAC’s committees (Environmental and Regulatory Affairs; Economic Development and Taxation; Judiciary and Public Safety; Health and Human Services; and Transportation) contact Casey Steffee at steffee@micounties.org for an application and more information.

House GOP plan offers opportunity to bolster county services

MAC logo blueytLANSING, Mich. – County officials across Michigan are ready to work with majority Republicans in the Michigan House on key elements of their 2015 “Action Plan,” which was released today in Lansing.

The Michigan Association of Counties, which represents the 622 county commissioners across the state, sees fertile ground to nurture reform on several issues that counties deal with on a daily basis:

  • Tax-capture reform: MAC is pleased that the House GOP noted that tax increment financing by municipalities “is leaving other levels of government collecting a fraction of what they otherwise would.” MAC has long worked at the State Capitol to bring fairness and collaboration to the tax-capture process.
  • Road commission merger authority: MAC agrees with House Republicans that, “The provisions in law that allow county boards of commissioners to consolidate their road commissions under the umbrella of general county government must be reinstated.” That authority expired at the end of 2014 and it should be a top priority for the Legislature to act on restoration in 2015.
  • Community mental health: “There is a continued need to further explore and evaluate policy and budgetary solutions to ensure that those with mental-health needs, and their loved ones, have access to quality and consistent care,” the plan states. Michigan counties know this all too well and will continue to educate policy-makers and the public on the nuances and demands of proper mental health services.
  • Sentencing reform: MAC understands and supports the need to reduce the prison budget’s huge bite on state resources, but changes in sentencing must be made in such a way that county jails and county taxpayers are not left holding the bill.
  • Veteran services: It’s vital to reverse the trends that have left Michigan near the bottom of national rankings on services to our veterans.
  • Public notices: Laws to ensure transparency written with 19th century techniques in mind should and can be updated to protect the public interest while reducing the financial burden on county coffers.

“We are generally pleased with the course being charted by the House leadership,” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “And we stand ready to hammer out the details to make these goals into policy. But that requires a balancing act by lawmakers. For example, it’s great for them to urge a focus on the long-term liabilities of local governments, but they can’t, at the same time, be looking to enact more property tax exemptions that drain the very funds that local governments need to cover their liabilities.”

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For more information on MAC, go to www.micounties.org. Deena Bosworth is available to speak to the media on this topic. She can be reached at (800) 258-1152 or Bosworth@micounties.org.

MAC’s Bosworth talks to Port Huron paper about need for tax-capture reform

Bosworth

Bosworth

MAC’s Deena Bosworth lays out the counties’ position on the need for tax-capture reform in this story from Port Huron on the workings of downtown development authorities in St. Clair County:

These are unelected officials that are spending money on whatever they see fit … It should not be up to an unelected board to capture however much tax money they want and use it however they see fit.”

Tax-capture reform will be a priority for MAC in the 2015 legislative session. As always, please be sure to share with us your local experiences and input via email to melot@micounties.org. The more data and experience we can provide lawmakers, the more powerful our lobbying effort becomes.

For more background on tax-capture laws and MAC’s position them, review this briefing paper. (Please note you must be a registered member of the MAC website to access MAC briefing papers and other key documents. Be sure to register today at http://www.micounties.org/index.php/private-site/login?view=registration)

Taxes, Medicaid, immigration on NACo’s 2015 agenda

NACoLogoR_colorTax reform, protecting Medicaid and immigration reform are just three of several 2015 legislative priorities for the National Association of Counties.

As NACo recently reported, “The 2015 legislative priorities are tax reform, protecting the federal-state-local partnership for Medicaid, transportation reauthorization, approval of the Marketplace Fairness Act, funding for Payment In Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools, rejection of the ‘Waters of the U.S.’ proposal rule and immigration reform that addresses issues impacting county government.”

MAC members may recall coverage of the “Waters of the U.S.” issue in the October 2014 edition of Michigan Counties (see page 6).

You win some, lose some at Capitol

DSC_0139.jpgWhile 2014 has been an outstanding year for MAC legislative initiatives (full revenue sharing funding, Cunningham court funding crisis averted), there always are debates that don’t play out so well. Which, of course, means a redoubling of our efforts in the coming legislative term.

This week, legislation to extend county authority to merge road commissions (House Bills 5117-18) was put on the shelf, meaning that the authority will expire on Dec. 31. We are disappointed in this result, but will look to address the issue again in the new legislative term.

Legislation altering the rules on tax increment financing, or “tax capture,” districts also stalled this fall.

We have been working throughout this legislative session on revisions to the TIF law, principally to ensure that counties always have the option on whether to have millage dollars captured by TIF districts, the length of time of that capture and the ability to partner with the authorities by having a seat at the table. The legislation sponsored by Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-Oakland), however, eventually was written in such a way that no real reform would result.

We expect to have new legislation filed early next year to incorporate the provisions for county authority and more reforms.

As always, the best way to stay on top of county issues at the Capitol is by being a subscriber to MAC’s weekly Legislative Update. If you are not receiving the updates, send a request and your email address to melot@micounties.org.

GOP builds on large majority of Michigan’s county commissioner seats

parties image(Updated 12-19-14): In addition to retaining statewide elective offices and majorities in the Michigan Legislature, the Republican Party gained a small number of seats in the ranks of county commissioners, a MAC review of election results finds.

Based on unofficial election results, the Republicans now hold 396 of the 622 seats, a gain of 3 seats. Democrats hold 217 seats, a drop of 5, and candidates labeled as unaffiliated hold 9 seats, a gain of 2.

Republicans also hold a wide margin in control of county boards of commissioners:

  • 59 boards have GOP majorities
  • 23 boards have Democratic majorities
  • 1 board is tied (Alpena Co.)

Partisan control shifted in five counties due to election results: Clare (D to R); Kalamazoo (R to D); Manistee (D to R); Monroe (D to R); and Schoolcraft (D to R).

Of the 622 commissioners in 2015, 136 will be new to the office, MAC found. This turnover rate of 22 percent is consistent with historical results.