Monday, November 16, 2009

More Bishop-Dillon Budget Fallout: Troy to Ask Voters For Millage Increase

Millage. Such a polite word. The Bishop-Dillon budget trickles down to another community, and the voters of Troy will be asked to take on the responsibility of saving their police department. Amongst other things. City Manager John Szerlag estimates that Troy is facing a $22 million deficit over the next six years due to falling property tax collections and the loss of state revenue sharing, and a February ballot question is necessary to avoid layoffs of public safety personnel this year.

The cost of a special election is estimated at $75,000. If a millage increase is approved by voters in February, taxes could be collected in summer 2010 at the new rate. If a vote for a millage increase were to be held in May, August or November, taxes at the new rate could not be collected until summer 2011.

Without a millage increase, Szerlag has proposed to close the library, community center, nature center, and community affairs and risk management departments. He also said employees would be laid off, including 47 in the police department.

Troy, like many other cities, is looking at other ways to shore up their budget as well, including the privatization of services and dipping into the rainy day fund. The Bishop-Dillon budget has been a Republican dream - pass the buck for the responsibility of raising revenue down to the local communities, help bust the unions at the local level, and then turn around and blame the Democrats for all the cuts! See how that works? You will in 2010.

As far as the magical "reforms" coming out of Lansing? Don't hold you breath. Bishop is now putting on the Big Stall once again, taking vacation, making Dillon try to pass his health care plan in the House first. Let's see how many Democrats we can hang with that as well, eh Mike?

House Democrats still want to find revenue to restore money cut from the K-through-12 schools budget last month. But Senate Republicans say budget negotiations are over and they are focused on a package of reforms that may help prevent shortfalls in the future.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop says he likes Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon's plan to create a health insurance pool for all state workers and teachers.

"You know, I'd first of all like to see him move his reform out of the House. He says he can get 900 million in savings out of that, I think now would be the time to do that," Bishop says.

Bishop says Senate reform ideas won't be unveiled until he has a chance to discuss them with Dillon.

Dillon has yet to prove the savings from his proposal, let alone address the cost of setting up a new bureaucracy to run it, and MIRS speculated last month that Dillon doesn't have the votes to move his proposal through the House - not even from the Republicans.

The reality is that Dillon's healthcare plan stands virtually no chance of passing in the House, unless it was completely gutted. There aren't 15 House Democratic votes for it and probably not even 41 "yes" votes on the Republican side, for that.

End result: Don't look to Lansing for any miracle "reform" anytime soon. The word is pretty much meaningless when uttered by anyone in our legislature. There is a reason why both Governor Granholm and LG Cherry are looking towards a ballot proposal for fixing our tax structure - they know that lawmakers are far too worried about their own political futures to make the tough calls. Republicans say "no" to everything and refuse to compromise, the Democrats have a severe problem with the compromises they have already made, because they will shoulder much of the blame in the blame game.


Get ready to vote on your future, Michigan. You are probably going to see this repeated all over the state, especially if we end up with another $1.6 billon in cuts next year. Troy officials are indicating that they have the support of the public. For all the teabagger bluster, when it really comes down to it, the majority of people are willing to pay to support needed services.

"I'd say two-thirds of them were in favor of putting the issue on the ballot," (Troy Mayor Louise Schilling) said. "And many of them said they favored a millage and were willing to vote for it to keep our current services."

EPIC polls this fall (here and here) have shown that most people don't have a problem with tax increases when it comes to funding public safety, health care and education, especially if they come with tangible "reform".

Hold those local votes and support your city leaders, but never forget that part of the reason they are necessary is that some "leaders" will always pass the buck and run out the door for more vacation when it comes time to do the heavy lifting.

Maybe a permanent vacation is in order for them.