Legislature clouds efforts advancing true collaboration

July 19, 2010
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Grand Valley Metropolitan Council’s recent survey of members is refreshing for more than one reason. The governmental units composing the council still see the primary benefit as regional collaboration and sharing of some public services. The Metro Council’s ability to achieve its mission, however, is again being sabotaged by state legislators, who instead of clearing the pathway to assist such collaboration — and save taxpayers money — are attempting to make it far more difficult.

Metro Council and many Michigan cities and townships have been prevented from fully recognizing the savings of collaboration by Public Act 312, a 1969 law that forces binding arbitration on governmental units that attempt to combine services such as police and fire. Budgets are hacked because legislators have not provided communities with the revenue sharing due them by law.

Metro Council and local government leaders across the state have seen the necessity of changing the act and have found some willing legislators to assist the reform effort. But instead of repealing it, Senate Bill 1072 would expand the binding arbitration mandate to 911 dispatchers and fire authorities. The act has long proven to be a great destroyer of jobs — the opposite of what labor unions pretend is a great equalizer. It is a great equalizer for unemployment and further escalates the cost of services as those services decline.

State Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, last week noted in the Center for Michigan’s continuing series on legislative “reforms” that “the proposed changes to PA 312 could provide a perfect-storm type scenario where local municipalities will be forced to pay increased costs at a time when property tax revenue is already falling and their state revenue-sharing funding is in jeopardy.” Haveman even goes a step further to support incentives for government collaborations.

The insult of even discussing such an atrocity is beyond stupid: It fits Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results).

The Metro Council survey also clearly shows that collaborative efforts are far greater an issue among the 37 members and units of government in Kent County, vastly distancing “economic development” as a priority. To the legislature we would say: There’s your sign.

The Metro Council and its opportunity to expand are ever more necessary.

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