I had the opportunity today to join former state treasurer Robert Kleine, MSU assistant professor Josh Sapotichne, and Battle Creek city manager Rebecca Fleury for a press event to announce the release of an somewhat shocking report titled Michigan’s Great Disinvestment: How State Policies Have Forced Our Communities into Fiscal Crisis. The news event was moderated by League CEO Dan Gilmartin.
The first word that comes to mind is wow….and not in a good way. This report lays out the shocking but true historical reality that our dysfunctional system has created.
To think that we are the only state in the country trying to operate with less revenue than in 2002 is shocking. We have clearly set up our cities to fail, and the dirty little secret is if they fail we all fail. They are our most important economic asset, but state economic policy fails to recognize this fact.
MSU has conducted their own independent research that comes to the same conclusions. Our system is hopelessly constrained in every possible way. Most importantly our system is not designed around the economy of 2016 and our hope for the future and as a result does not and cannot track with the economy. It only declines, and with it Michigan’s future.
While their report is not a light read, I strongly encourage you to take some time and truly understand what our current policies have done to our communities. It is time for a new day and new policies that invest our resources where they can be most impactful. I would suggest that is not in sustaining a massive state bureaucracy, but we should invest in the services that matter most to you: great parks, safe streets, good infrastructure, and creating great places.
This Michigan combined with a well thought out municipal finance system will be an economic monster. If we stay on our current path, our best and brightest will move on to help build the monster that kills us somewhere where they are doing it right. Simply put, we got it wrong.
Anthony Minghine is associate executive director and COO of the Michigan Municipal League.