Counties praise revenue sharing boost in governor’s FY20 budget; call roads plan a ‘bold start’ to debate

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget carries many positive notes for county government in Michigan, said the executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties.

“Obviously, it’s great to see the 3 percent increase in county revenue sharing funds, as revenue sharing is the key promise from the state to counties to help with delivery of vital local services,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

Whitmer’s budget, released today during a presentation in downtown Lansing, would move county revenue sharing totals to just over $228 million, up from the $221.4 million in the fiscal 2019 budget.

Another positive note was the governor’s call for a significant investment in dealing with the PFAS contamination in Michigan waters.

On infrastructure, Currie said counties see the governor’s proposal to raise the gasoline tax by 45 cents a “bold proposal that gets the conversation started.”

The governor calls for raising $2.5 billion for roads by increasing the gas tax 45 cents by Oct. 1, 2020. Money generated would go to a new “Fixing Michigan Roads Fund” for the most “highly traveled and commercially important roads” at the state and local levels, reports the Governor’s Office.

Pension-OPEB report shows need for state to adopt tailored, long-term approach to complex liability issues

Steve Currie

Steve Currie

Michigan needs to tailor long-term solutions to the specific circumstances of local governments struggling to cover pension and OPEB liabilities said the Michigan Association of Counties in response to the new report of a gubernatorial task force.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s Task Force on Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government met over the winter and spring to study unfunded liabilities exceeding $14 billion for pensions, health and other benefits for employees. The group’s report properly notes that:

  • “As local units across the state are unique and at different stages in dealing with this problem, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution – we must be flexible in our approach.” (page 3)
  • “Attention should focus on the local units experiencing the greatest fiscal stress as it relates to pension and OPEB liabilities.” (page 3)

“It’s important for legislators and citizens to understand that there’s no overnight fix to this issue,” said Stephan W. Currie, MAC’s executive director.

Currie, who served on the 23-member panel, added, “A ‘one-size-for-all’ approach will not work for everyone, which the report rightly highlights. For example, most of our 83 county members either are in solid shape in setting aside money for these commitments or did not extend them in the first place. We need to start with a system that identifies the governments struggling with legacy costs, as is urged in the report.

“MAC is appreciative of the opportunity to participate with a diverse group of stakeholders and looks forward to working with the governor, legislators and others in the ongoing pursuit of stable funding.”

The full report and additional details are available at the governor’s website.

For more information on the Michigan Association of Counties, visit www.micounties.org.