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Unfunded mandates hurt local units of government

April 26, 2012
The Mining Journal

We support the Marquette County Board's ongoing efforts to hold Lansing lawmakers accountable for requiring services without providing funding.

Many lawmakers have long wanted to get rid of the personal property tax - a tax levied on business equipment they say is keeping manufacturers from hiring more workers. They may, in fact, be correct.

But there's a conundrum - how to replace the money local governments, libraries and school districts will lose if the personal property tax goes away.

The county board voted unanimously Tuesday to send a letter to state legislators "demanding that if the state repeals the personal property tax, replacement revenue be constitutionally guaranteed."

Dropping the tax would represent the loss of a significant amount of money for counties, and it would be on top of already steep cuts over the past 10 years.

Local officials argue that the state will spend 26 percent less on revenue sharing in the next fiscal year than it did a decade ago. The Michigan Municipal League told The Associated Press it estimates state cuts have cost local governments $4.2 billion between fiscal 2001 and 2011, forcing reductions in police and fire services, park maintenance and personnel. School districts are getting 3 percent less annually than they did a decade ago, forcing them to lay off teachers, close buildings and charge students for more services. Libraries have lost nearly $10 million in state aid over the same period.

County Commissioner Gerald Corkin said the cuts in revenue sharing have "pushed counties over the edge."

Efforts to recover declining revenue sharing payments to fund state mandated services has been going on for decades, and counties are growing increasingly frustrated.

The county board plans to send a letter asking for legal action from the Michigan Association of Counties. It will also ask the other 14 Upper Peninsula counties to make similar requests, banding the region together, eventually taking the measure to counties statewide. The board will take a final vote on the recommended actions at its meeting next week.

We think the demand for guarantees from Lansing makes sense.

We're not advocating more taxes - or even for the continuation of the personal property tax - but the state cannot continue to demand counties provide services without giving local units of government the funds to support those mandates.



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