Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s fiscal 2022 budget proposal makes important and much needed boosts to local governments dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and to public infrastructure, said the head of the association representing counties Feb. 11.
Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, responded to the FY22 budget presented in Lansing on Feb. 11 by the governor and her top budget officials.
“We greatly appreciate the variety of recommendations for spending that recognize the ongoing demands on counties, demands increased by the pandemic,” Currie said.
He added, however, that the short-term positive news will not reverse the long-term crisis in local government finance in Michigan. A recent analysis by the nonpartisan Lincoln Institute of Land Policy found that not only is Michigan “unique in the restrictiveness of the state’s property tax limits,” but “the property tax is particularly important for local governments’ fiscal health in Michigan because they have little access to other types of taxes to raise revenue.”
One such example of this dynamic is in state revenue sharing to counties. The governor is proposing a 2 percent increase in that annual amount, boosting it about $4 million to a total of $231 million. However, that increase has to stand against two decades of lagging payments. In 2000, counties received $214 million in revenue sharing. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $330 million this year, nearly $100 million below the governor’s recommendation.
“We need a full partnership with the state to address the funding crunch, similar to what started in 2019 on the Jail and Pre-trial Incarceration Task Force that led to significant improvements in state policy during the last Legislature,” Currie said.
Overall, though, the FY22 proposal has numerous benefits for local services and infrastructure, including:
- $300 million from the state General Fund to repair or replace about 120 local bridges that are in serious or critical condition.
- $15 million for the Dam Safety Emergency Fund for emergency response when private dam owners leave their structures in disrepair. The money for dams follows the devastating flooding in the Midland area last year after privately owned dams failed.
- $40 million to fund high water level and resilient infrastructure and planning grants to local governments to address high water issues such as flooding and erosion
- $5 million for first responder training
- $290 million in infrastructure grants for the MI Clean Water Plan to address sewer overflows and mitigate public health risks by removing sewage discharge to surface water and ground water and eliminate failing septic systems
- $148.9 million in grants from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to adhere to state mandates for defense services
- $262 million for the Child Care Fund
- $9 million for the Raise the Age Fund, to help cover costs resulting from the move of 17-year-old offenders to the juvenile justice system
- $12.9 million for Secondary Road Patrol services from sheriffs
- $4 million for the County Veteran Service Fund
- $14.8 million for the County Jail Reimbursement Program to compensate counties for housing state offenders in county jails
- $51.4 million for Essential Local Public Health Services
- $13 million for Community Corrections
For more information on the Michigan Association of Counties, visit www.micounties.org.