Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Senate Republicans Vote To Stiff Your Community

You didn't really need those cops and firefighters, did you?

The state Senate narrowly voted today to strip a 4 percent increase in state revenue sharing for local governments from a spending bill for next year.

Senate Republicans, who control the chamber, argued that the state doesn't have the money to grant the proposed $61 million increase in funding, which municipalities use for police and fire protection, road repairs, garbage pickup and other services.

Those fightin' Senate Dems have done their best to ward off the cuts, but they don't have the numbers to stop the Republicans who will pass this on to your town. A news release from the Dem Caucus spells out the details -

The Legislature has cut $3 billion for these services over the last few years, resulting in 4,000 fewer police and firefighters in Michigan since 2001. The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards recently released a report stating arrests are down, violent crime is rising, and Michigan citizens are waiting longer than ever for police assistance due to understaffing caused by these cuts. Last week mayors, police chiefs, and fire chiefs from across the state came to the Capitol to plead for support of the Senate Democrats’ proposed increase in public safety funding.

“We have been forced to cut our budgets year after year and provide the same services with less. We have done this, but we can’t do it for much longer,” said Holland Mayor Al McGeehan, president of the Michigan Association of Mayors. “Additional cuts will continue to threaten public safety, our ability to plow and repair streets, and other services residents expect and deserve.”

And here in Grand Rapids, the results of those revenue sharing cuts are part of the squeeze on our city budget. Seven firefighters might lose their jobs, city employees have not had a raise or a contract since 2006, and domestic abuse shelters are looking at radically reduced funding at a time when need is growing.

Some of the most compelling testimony came from supporters for the YWCA's Domestic Crisis Center, who said hard economic times have increased the risk of abuse for women and children.

"Now is not the time to undercut capacity," said Dr. Barbara Wynn, an emergency-room doctor who said the YWCA offers some women their only escape from abuse.

Other pleas came from supporters of Senior Neighbors Inc. and the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, which operates a center for at-risk youth.

Hope there are some mayors up on the island this weekend. Might want to hunt down your local Senate Republican and spit in his or her drink.