Letter: Don’t let cities raise taxes, again

Re: The May 29 editorial “Get Michigan cities back on their feet”: This did a decent job of summing up the challenges that Michigan municipalities face in providing local services to residents.

Where it missed the mark, however, is blaming the shortfall on state tax policies that limit the municipal governments’ abilities to raise revenue. Instead of pointing fingers at taxpayers and families leaving their jurisdiction for lower tax options, I think cities should take a look at their own policies that have for decades provided overly generous defined benefit retirement plans that have been underfunded for years and cannot be sustained in the long run.

Cities have been handing out pensions and other post-employment benefits that are breaking the bank. Instead of investing in their infrastructure and providing services, they have been making promises they simply can't keep. Underfunded pension plans have been driving more families, job creators, and young people out of cities while piling more and more debt on those who are left behind, resulting in higher taxes, lower credit ratings and fewer opportunities for working families.

We don’t need to give municipal governments more opportunities to raise taxes on working families already burdened with a heavy tax load, which will only drive families and businesses out of town. The state government faced the same problem a few years ago and made responsible pension and retirement health care reforms that saved billions of dollars for hard-working taxpayers in the long term while providing more secure retirement future, taking that debt right off the backs of our children and grandchildren. There is no reason local governments cannot make the same decisions now. In fact, those municipalities that have are thriving, and those that haven’t are struggling.

Making up the lack of taxable income with new taxes — including increased city income taxes, which are the most punitive of taxes — is only going to lead to an increase exodus of hard-working taxpayers. This will have a ripple effect through the entire economy in our state. The time to act on reform is now to protect our children and grandchildren from piles of debt. Giving cities more opportunities to raise taxes is the wrong solution.

State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton

House Majority Floor Leader