Rep. Cox: Revenue sharing must reach all communities

State Rep. Laura Cox

In my first term as your state representative, I have been given the privilege of chairing the General Government House Appropriations subcommittee, which oversees a budget dealing with a wide array of topics and issues that help make Michigan a better place to live and work.

The largest portion of our budget discussion regards revenue sharing to our local communities, accounting for approximately a quarter of our appropriations. It has been a great experience to work with my colleagues and the communities we serve throughout the state to make sure we find a way to help all deserving municipalities in Michigan by revising the state’s revenue sharing system.

For too long, revenue-sharing has focused on propping up our largest city, Detroit, rather than working to help all of our state’s communities. The truth is, Detroit has been receiving a disproportionate piece of the pie for a very long time. Put into perspective, the city currently has a little more than 7 percent of the state’s population but receives about 55 percent of the revenue dollars the state allocates to local communities.

In fact, six of Michigan’s largest communities—which have a combined population similar to Detroit—receive only 13 cents in revenue-sharing for every dollar sent to Detroit. Equally as surprising, Detroit receives approximately $1 million more revenue-sharing dollars per square mile than the next largest city, and the disparity is even larger when compared to other smaller communities. These cities provide to residents many of the same services and have had to tackle the same economic challenges over the past decade that Detroit has had to face, yet they currently do so more efficiently and with fewer state dollars.

The numbers prove the system is flawed. It has been catering to Detroit for long enough. While I recognize the importance of helping our state’s largest city, we have to make sure we aren’t hurting our other communities. This year’s budget strikes a balance between ensuring Detroit continues to receive strong state support through revenue sharing and giving local communities a more equitable share of the total funds.

While it’s true Detroit is projected to receive less in the Fiscal Year 2015-16 budget, the decrease is barely 2 percent and the city still receives more revenue sharing money from the state than they did just two years ago. This change allows us to continue to give 101 other municipalities the same payments they received last year to help provide many vital services to residents.

Since we are still early in the budget process and nothing is set in stone just yet, I look forward to working with Gov. Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan and leaders in Lansing on this issue. It is my goal this session to find a long-lasting and comprehensive plan because I know many communities—and the residents who live in them—are grateful for the money they receive through state revenue-sharing.

Finding that long-term solution is vital to our state’s future, because revenue-sharing allows many municipalities to offer services they would not otherwise be able to provide. We must find a way to equitably distribute revenue-sharing so we can reach more of our communities for the right reasons, not just reward the ones that have historically received the most money.

State Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia, represents the 19th District.