County board on right track on revenue sharing

Recently, the Marquette County Board took a dramatic stance in resolving to accept no new state mandates that services be provided, without receiving the funding to support those directives.

“Any future mandate, we’re going to refuse to pay,” said board Chairman Gerald Corkin.

The board’s decision was the latest salvo in a decades-long battle over unfunded mandates and part of a new resolution the panel approved with hopes other Michigan counties will join in making the same pledge.

County officials said Gov. Rick Snyder’s projected revenue sharing shortfall in Marquette County for next year is projected to total $292,225.

Snyder is recommending a revenue sharing appropriation to counties of $140.6 million, $41.7 million less than statutorily required and counties will have to “earn” 20 percent of their funding by fulfilling County Incentive Program requirements.

Earlier this month, the county shelved a proposed revenue sharing resolution, opting for a tougher stance and a resolution with “teeth” and “ultimatums.”

We supported the board’s intention to take a tougher stand on the revenue sharing issue, but we weren’t sure what the panel could do to facilitate the changes it desires.

The county board now has to demonstrate the ability to stand up to the resolution and follow through with its declaration. Unfortunately, doing so could potentially open up the county to eventual legal action, but any lawsuit might also start a movement in the direction of positive changes. It seems hard to believe courts could honor the state’s requiring that services be performed without the funds provided to do so.

We know state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba is working on crafting a revenue sharing bill to try to provide some relief to counties. We also know the Michigan Association of Counties has talked in favor of changes to the situation over the years.

But as county board Chairman Gerald Corkin said recently, Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature have been unable, over many years and legislative sessions, to affect positive change.

Nor has the counties association acted to back tougher stands proposed by Upper Peninsula counties, including taking legal action against the state, an idea that was supported by all 15 Upper Peninsula counties.

Simply put, the state of Michigan needs to pay its bills and not put the cost of mandated services on the backs of local governments to bear.