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Welcome to SEMCOG's Think Regional/Act Local blog! SEMCOG is the only organization in Southeast Michigan that brings together all governments to solve regional challenges and enhance the quality of life for the seven-county regions 4.7 million residents. With this regional perspective in mind, we work with member local governments to sustain our regions reputation as a great place to work, play, and do business.

 

Our panel of SEMCOG staff bloggers will post daily to this blog, discussing SEMCOG's data, federal and state legislative issues, and environmental and fiscal sustainability best practices for local governments all with the goal of creating a successful future for the region.

 

 

Think Regional/Act Local

Headlee and the Road Funding Debate

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

December 16, 2014 – In the SEMCOG report Running on Empty, there is discussion about the measures Dick Headlee took to prevent the legislature from taking their financial problems and shifting them to local governments. The recent vote by the Michigan House of Representatives to divert money designated for local government operations into the road fund is the perfect example of what Headlee opposed.   

 

Running on Empty details how the state has been divesting itself from supporting local government operations, this despite a constitutional requirement to do so. One of the first great shifts was breaking the legal promise to distribute 21.4 percent of the first four cents of the sales tax to local governments under the statutory revenue-sharing formula. About a sixth of all sales tax revenues generated in the state come from the sale of motor fuels.

 

Now the House wants to fund roads by shifting the revenue from the tax on gasoline into the road fund. In doing this, the House is shifting about $1 billion a year out of the school-aid fund and revenue sharing for local governments. Politically, this is a fairly easy vote. The legislature takes the credit for fixing the roads, no new taxes are raised, and the financial implications of the shift become someone else’s problem.

 

Running on Empty also looks at the growth of state revenues over the past decade compared to the growth in local revenues or, more specifically, the lack of growth in local government revenues. While the state has been struggling with six percent annual increases for state operations over the past decade, local governments have seen virtually no growth over the same period of time.

 

House members boast that their plan protects schools and local governments from decreases in yearly appropriations. They conveniently ignore that the House plan effectively siphons off the better part of revenue growth for schools and local governments for nearly the next decade. Impact on the state budget: Virtually none. Why wouldn’t someone vote for a plan where the person voting can take all of the credit and doesn’t need to deal with any of the consequences?

 

Article IX Section 30 was added to our constitution by Mr. Headlee to deal specifically with this type of proposal. The House did not violate the constitution, at least not this particular section, with their proposal. But that is because of a technicality. They certainly violated the intent of the language created by Mr. Headlee and approved by the citizens of the state.

 

 

Bill 
Anderson
Every budget, every project, begins with revenue. Bill’s posts will focus on local government revenue issues across the SEMCOG region and state. Also look for a few insights on how legislation coming out of Lansing may impact your community.
 

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So Close

(Legislation, Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

December 16, 2014 - Last week, SEMCOG held a news conference to have local elected officials tell members of the state legislature how they felt about both the House-passed and the Senate-passed transportation funding legislation. It should not be a surprise that local government leaders favor the Senate-passed version of the bill. Why?  

  • The Senate-passed bill raises more dollars.
  • The Senate-passed bill raises more dollars in a shorter period of time.
  • The Senate-passed bill raises new dollars and does not take from any other state programs.
  • The Senate-passed bill distributes the dollars through the existing Act 51 formula, so for the first time since 1987, public transit will see an increase in state funding.

Duggan

 

Mayor Mike Duggan, County Executives Mark Hackel and Bob Ficano, Mayor Bryan Barnett from Rochester Hills, Supervisor Dan O’Leary of Washington Township, and Paul Hillegonds, Chair of the RTA were among the speakers who made the above points.

 

The House-passed bill does none of the above; it raises fewer dollars, takes more time, and takes money away from schools and government revenue sharing and public transit.

 

So where are we today?

 

The Senate rejected the House plan and sent it to a Conference Committee of the House and Senate. At this stage, the issue is being debated behind closed doors by the legislative leadership and the Governor. If they can reach a solution, that plan would go to the Conference Committee which could choose to just rubberstamp the deal and send it on to both the House and Senate to approve in their full sessions. At that point, the Conference Committee report cannot be amended and must be voted on as “yes” or “no.” If it passes in both chambers, it goes to the Governor for his signature. If it does not pass in both chambers, the issue of new funding would die and new legislation would have to be introduced again in 2015.

 

So, we are now pretty much at the mercy of whatever “deal” can be made between the Governor and Senate and House leadership. However, you can still influence the final agreement. Phone calls and emails this week to your legislator will keep the pressure on them to reach a deal that is good for us all.

 

We are close. Call and tell your legislator to pass the Senate-passed bill. Do it today!

 

 

 
Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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Pass the Senate version

(Legislation, Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

December 8, 2014 - The old saying is that you should be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. Something like that happened last week. Instead of getting one bill raising transportation revenue, we got two bills. The Senate-passed bill increases transportation funding by up to $1.5 billion within a four-year period. It does this by raising all new revenue. This bill provides enough funding to improve roads over the next few years. You will see a noticeable improvement in condition two or three years after it is enacted.

 

The House, rather than just agree with the Senate and move on to something else, passed a substitute bill that provides additional transportation funding, but it does so by taking it from other programs. It raises no new revenue. Instead, it diverts money from the general fund, schools, and local government operations and sends it to improve our roads. It could generate as much as $1.4 billion a year more to improve roads, but it will take eight years before the full amount is realized! That is an average increase of less than $200 million per year. Sorry, things will be getting much worse before they get better under this funding package.

 

Oh, one more thing. The Senate-passed bill provides funding for public transit through the agreed upon funding. It would be the first time since 1987 that transit has seen any increase in state funding. The House-passed bill? It decreases funding for transit.

 

The solution is easy. Call your elected officials; ask to speak directly to the legislator and tell them to pass the Senate-approved version of the funding package today. It provides adequate funding to improve our roads, additional funding for transit, and does so without taking money away from schools or local government or anything else. We are so close to having better roads and transit. Do it today.

 

 

 
Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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Denial

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

December 1, 2014 - I have been writing a lot about the need for additional transportation funding and the next couple of weeks are critical if we are going to see an increase any time soon, but an article came across my desk last week that I just have to write about.

 

The U of M Transportation Research Center just completed a study of motorcycle crash and injuries with data compiled by the Michigan State Police. The study identified some very interesting and scary things:

  • Since 2012, about 25 percent of all motorcycle riders drive helmetless.
  • Helmetless drivers of motorcycles account for almost 50 percent of all motorcycle fatalities.
  • In 2013, 3.6 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in crashes were killed.
  • Reduced helmet use accounts for 24 more deaths and 71 more serious injuries a year in Michigan.

These are facts – the statistics come with names, locations, times, and dates. What is the motorcycle lobby response? They don’t believe the statistics or the studies that show increased cost, injury or fatalities. "Those people just make things up" is what the legislative director for American Bikers Aiming Toward Education was quoted as saying. Incredible!

 

The Michigan legislature acted on this issue in 2012, allowing motorcyclists to ride without a helmet and they are in no hurry to deal with this issue again. But the data from Michigan, Florida, West Virginia, and other states all point to the same thing. For some legislators, the primary issue is personal freedom. I get that, but freedom for some that results in more deaths and higher costs for me? The medical insurance that riders have to carry does not last long for someone that has a severe injury. Someone ends up paying for all of this potentially avoidable expense: you and me.

 

Costs are important, but the loss of human life and the impact on families is far worse. What I really don’t understand is the spokesperson for the motorcyclist group flat out dismissing the information. The group is doing their members a disservice by not looking at the information and deciding on the proper course of action. I wonder if anyone really cares for the people losing their lives or is this just a political issue about who has the most power? The sad thing is that over 900 people lose their lives each year on the road in avoidable crashes and we just seem to continue to accept that as the price of doing business. Dismissing information does nothing to prevent even one life from being saved and that is just tragic.

 

It shouldn’t be about politics. It should be about people.

 

 
Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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