Gov. Snyder Plays Hunger Games With Michigan Counties

Local governments in Michigan are being subjected to the equivalent of The Hunger Games under Gov. Snyder’s policies. New laws and budgeting dictates have pitted community against community and department against department as if they were competing corporate entities. Snyder and GOP lawmakers naively think that this is a good thing — believing it will lead to a smaller, more efficient government, and thereby some sort of magic kingdom of prosperity.

Wayne County is the poster-child of the fundamental flaws in the governor’s boilerplate municipal fiscal policies. Applying the Government = Bad hypothesis, Snyder starts with the corporate-borrowed premise that eliminating governmental functions, and the infrastructure they are designed to provide, through cut-back management is an end goal meant to create “savings”. This demonstrates Snyder’s deep misunderstanding of the primary function of government — to provide infrastructure, not dismantle it. The basic necessities of a prosperous civil society cannot be achieved by starving it of revenue, especially while lavishing tax cuts on private corporations, held unaccountable as job-creators in the state.

Sound infrastructure is key to growing Michigan’s economy — which can only be achieved through government investment in the state’s future. Private sector rules of capitalism fail miserably in this regard.

Wayne County has been pushed to the breaking point. The prosecutor’s office is suing the county over inadequate funding. As Democracy Tree reported last week, the Wayne County prosecutor is no longer able to service many misdemeanors, and not just traffic violations. Their $25.6 million dollar budget has nearly eliminated their ability to issue Personal Protection Orders. The Associated Press reports that they are facing a $160 million dollar deficit, and just laid-off 22 attorneys and 3 investigators. They have a backlog of 40 homicides, 130 child abuse cases and 66 sexual assaults. Paula Bridges, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said: “If it takes longer to get a case to court, that person will have to spend more days behind bars…This means we are going to be paying more to house these individuals”. It costs the county $140 per day for each prisoner.

Sheriff Benny Napoleon is also squaring-off with the county over his department’s funding. Their current budget provides for 1754 inmates, but they are actually servicing an additional 1000 (at the above mentioned cost). Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano complains that the department is already $35 million over their $85 million dollar budget, and laments that the state didn’t step-in and make it illegal for departments to sue the county.

The county itself has been using inter-departmental bridge loans for stop-gap budgeting emergencies, but the state recently denied approval for the county to temporarily reallocate some unused grant monies for that purpose, and last year passed a bill that spun-off the Wayne County Department of Mental Health as a separate entity to protect its revenue stream.

There you have it, Wayne County: starving poster-child of Michigan.

Former Governor Milliken, a true statesman and visionary, understood the importance of investing in Michigan. Snyder however, is still thinking about window-dressing his quarterlies for Gateway.

Whatever happened to that company anyhow?

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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