MAC Mourns the Loss of Former Executive Director A. Barry McGuire

“Until We Meet Again, May God Hold You in the Palm of His Hand” –Irish Blessing

By Ben Bodkin and Mary Pettit

Barry McGuire, MAC Executive Director from 1969 -1984, passed away on April 14, 2012. Mr. McGuire lived to the fullest through his 78 years. He played baseball at Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a degree in 1958 after a stint in the army. After serving as MAC Executive Director, McGuire served in the same position for the Michigan Auto Dealers Association from 1984 – 2001, retiring at the end of 2001. He served on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Board of Directors, the Accident Fund Board of Directors, and was active on numerous state boards and commissions through appointments by Governors Romney, Milliken, Blanchard, and Granholm.

When he first became Executive Director of MAC, it was the Michigan State Association of Supervisors. Under his leadership, the legislature created the office of county commissioner, modernizing and updating the county board and the name of the organization was changed to Michigan Association of Counties. In addition, Barry created the structure of the modern, full-service association we know today, adding both the MAC Service Corporation and Workers Compensation Program during his tenure. But the measure of Barry McGuire is more than the sum of his accomplishments.

Current commissioners Jack LaBelle (R-Livingston County, President of MAC Workers Comp Board) and Bernie Lang (D-Menominee County) were commissioners during Mr. McGuire’s tenure as MAC Executive Director. Commissioner LaBelle, “Barry combined wit, charm, and a background in local government with a loyalty to the individual membership that translated into a 10-15 year period where MAC became a leader in fighting for county interests. MAC has come a long way as an organization and we owe much of that to the leadership of Barry.” Commissioner Lang spoke to McGuire’s personality, “I was at a dinner years ago and I hadn’t seen Barry in 10 years. I went up to him and said ‘Hi Barry, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m…’ and before I could get it out, Barry said, ‘Well Bernie Lang! It’s so nice to see you again’ and gave me a handshake and it was just really nice of him to remember me. It made me feel really good.”

Bob Fitzpatrick, former Chair of the Wayne County Commission and current MAC Service Corporation Board of Directors Member, said he spent every St. Patrick’s Day with McGuire in Detroit for 30 years and has known him for 40. Fitzpatrick said Barry was “like a brother, a terrific person and personality.” Fitzpatrick went on to say that he was the kind of person who would find you a job, lend you money, and give you the shirt off his back. “He helped hundreds of people get jobs, and he really took care of everyone.” Dick Hammel, former Genesee County Commissioner and MAC President in 1975-1976 said he learned from Barry that “to have good friends, you don’t need to sit on their doorstep. “ He indicated that while they didn’t see each other very often, when they got together about once a year their friendship hadn’t waned a bit. Barry had the ability to keep a friendship for decades and make it seem as if no time had passed.

A Barry McGuire visit was a common occurrence for MAC staff as well. He dropped in occasionally in the warm months to visit, reminisce, and offer good counsel. Mr. McGuire will be missed by those he touched at MAC, his friends and colleagues at the Capitol, the Commissioners and auto dealers he served, and by his family. His quick wit and broad grin will live on in memory, until we meet again, as the blessing goes.

2012 MAC Legislative Conference Wraps Up

The final day of the 2012 MAC Legislative Conference began with a legislator’s breakfast where commissioners and were able to interact with their state legislators. The morning plenary session followed with Lt. Gov. Calley taking the stage for about 30 minutes. Calley spoke on the state economy, his previous work as a county commissioner and the personal property tax elimination.

Conference attendees were given time to ask questions, where county commissioners took the time to voice their concerns about the trend of broken promises between the State and counties. The example given to the Lieutenant Governor was the broken promise revenue sharing; where counties went off revenue sharing in 2004, saving over $1 billion dollars for the state, with the promise of returned funding when reserve accounts exhausted. However, counties have yet to see full funding of their revenue sharing dollars.

Following the Lieutenant Governor was Ketih Creagh, Director of Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development who spoke about the importance of agriculture to Michigan’s economic stability.

Attendees then were off to their final educational workshops for the rest of the morning. Workshops covered county retirees health care plans, Michigan’s emergency 911 act, changes to county collective bargaining and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) reform.

The conference wraps up with lunch speakers Sen. Gretchen Whitmer and Rep. Rick Hammel this afternoon.

Keep track of all happenings with the Michigan Association of Counties by following us on Twitter at @MICounties

Personal Property Tax, Hot Topic with Commissioners at MAC Conference

The 2012 MAC Legislative Conference is in full swing with the morning being dominated by talk of personal property tax and revenue sharing dollars for counties.

MAC’s Legislative staff held an update for members this morning highlighting the progress they’ve made on personal property tax with the Replace Don’t Erase coalition and discussing the Governor’s recommended cuts to counties revenue sharing budget again this year.

“We are eager to hear what the speakers have to say about the present and future of county government. We are happy to have the opportunity to hold an open conversation with Michigan leaders about the progress of Michigan Counties,” said Mattie Hatchett, President of the MAC Board of Directors.

Lieutenant Governor Calley will be addressing county officials from across Michigan on Wednesday, March 28 at 9:00 a.m. at the Lansing Center. His address comes at a pivotal time for counties as the State has been pressing for the elimination of personal property tax and this year’s budget included cuts to county revenue sharing dollars again.

“Counties have continued to reform, consolidate, share services and be examples of best practices in local government yet we saw another cut in revenue sharing this year,” said Deena Bosworth, Legislative Coordinator at Michigan Association of Counties. “So we’re eager to hear what the Lieutenant Governor has to say our members about our continued cuts and the additional proposed elimination of personal property tax.”

Keep checking back here for more updates as the conference progresses or follow MAC on Twitter, @MICounties.

MAC Legislative Conference Begins!

ImageThe Michigan Association of Counties 2012 Legislative Conference begins today! We kick off our conference with our pre-conference educational workshop on Rebuilding Michigan’s Economy: County Boards as Leaders in Intergovernmental Cooperation & Economic Development in Capitol III room at the Lansing Center at 3 p.m., the MAC Workers’ Compensation Fund Board of Trustees meeting in Capitol IV room at the Radisson at 3 p.m. and the MAC Board of Directors Meeting in Capitol I room at 5 p.m.

Our early conference registration will be open from 3-5 p.m. today at the Radisson.

Tomorrow we will have our conference registration in the Lansing Center Main Concourse all day long. Welcome and Opening Remarks begin at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Lansing Center  in the Banquet rooms with guest speakers of Maj. Gen. Robert W. Smith III, NACo President Lenny Eliason and Rep. Chuck Moss starting us off.

There will also be an 8:30 a.m. special Personal Property Tax & Revenue Sharing Legislative Informational Session where MAC’s legislative staff will give attendees an update on the status of  these important issues and the progress they have made in Lansing.

General educational workshops sessions starts at 10:30 a.m. and features topics such as healthcare reform, communicating with the media, court mandates, the transportation funding crisis and much more.

Check back here on the MAC blog, follow the event on our Twitter, @MICounties (or hashtag #MACconf) to keep fully informed on all the happenings for the next 3 days.

MI Counties Eligible for the Innovations in American Government Awards

All Michigan counties should take advantage of this chance to get your county’s great work recognized and be entered for a chance at $100,000 to continue or expand a program in your community with the Innovations in American Government Awards.

Offered by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the Innovations Award is heralded as the nation’s premier award for the public sector. It recognizes programs that demonstrate creative and effective government at its best. Applications are now being accepted for the $100,000 Innovations in American Government Award.

This year, the Center’s Innovations Program will also continue to identify and promote promising government efforts and partnerships through the Bright Ideas program.

Last year, two Michigan organizations received Bright Ideas recognition. The two programs were:

Capital Area Michigan Works! Employer Councils

For more than six years now, Capital Area Michigan Works! has launched and grown six different industry-specific employer-led councils. The councils allow employers to develop solutions to workforce challenges and connect them to traditional federal training programs and qualified candidates.

Deceased Veterans Document Historical Program

This historical event, titled “Why We Celebrate Memorial Day,” consisted of the military history of many local veterans that lie at rest in the Climax Township Cemeteries. The event was held for the first time on May 24, 2008, at Gibson Cemetary which dates back to 1850

All units of government — federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial — from all policy areas are eligible to apply for recognition.

The top winner of the Innovations in American Government Award will receive a $100,000 grant to support replication and dissemination activities. Top finalists will also receive monetary grants.

To learn more about the Bright Ideas program check out: http://innovationsaward.harvard.edu/BrightIdeas.cfm

Applications and additional information for both initiatives are available at www.innovationsaward.harvard.edu

APPLICATIONS ARE DUE ON MARCH 1, 2011

Personal Property Tax: The Facts, The Fiction and The Future

By Deena Bosworth, MAC Legislative Coordinator

For decades, one political leader or another has sought to relieve the business community of the burdensome personal property tax. It is claimed to stifle business investment and therefore needs to be eliminated in order to spur Michigan’s economy. Unfortunately, this is only half the picture.

A thriving business community provides jobs for Michigan’s residents, but these same residents deserve a certain quality of life that is provided by counties and other units of local government. Law enforcement, public health, the judicial system and a social safety net are all necessary for the quality of life our residents expect, but these services cost money. There are significant financial realities to the local funding situation that must be addressed. Let us examine what the facts really are, shed some light on the fiction out there and make a plan for the future.

The Facts

  • Michigan counties provide crucial services on behalf of state government, as evidenced by the delivery of road patrol services, corrections, foster care, clean water, food safety, the judicial system, etc.
  • The state has a very poor track record of fulfilling its’ statutory promises for its share of funding for things like revenue sharing, payment in lieu of taxes (PILT), public health, Medicaid reimbursement, and county jail reimbursement.
  • The only way to guarantee that future legislators honor the promise of replacing the revenue lost by the elimination of personal property tax is to guarantee it in the Constitution.
  • Counties are restricted by the Hedley Amendment in how much revenue they can realize through property value increases in times of economic growth; and there is no safety net in times of recession.
  • Personal property taxes make up anywhere from 2% to 27% of a county’s total taxable value. Reliance on PPT varies widely across the state.
  • Michigan businesses have already realized a tax cut estimated at over $1 billion.

The Fiction (Common Misunderstandings on PPT)

Fiction 1: Politicians in Lansing and representatives from the business community often call for local governments to tighten their belts and cut unnecessary spending.

  • Reality: Counties have been doing this for years. We have consolidated, cooperated and cut. We have renegotiated, become transparent and found efficiencies. It is our job to do that as good public stewards. At some point, Lansing needs to realize that the cuts from the legislature already outweigh our efforts to reduce, consolidate and be more efficient, and now we are cutting back on vital community services. 

Fiction 2: It’s a “revenue-neutral” promise.

  • Reality: A “revenue-neutral” promise today does not equal revenue neutrality in the future. We have learned from past experience that promised monies get raided by future politicians. In 2005, counties went off of revenue sharing and agreed to a statutory promise that we would receive full funding when we came back online. Too often the promise has not been kept by subsequent legislatures who were not there to make the promise. Statute can be easily changed, and funding is subject to annual appropriations priorities of the current legislature, regardless of past promises. The only real way to guarantee this revenue is to maintain the local tax, or put it in the state Constitution. 

Fiction 3: Expiring business tax credits will be a consistent and reliable funding source for personal property tax replacement. 

  • Reality: It will be years before the state will realize the savings from the elimination of the business tax credits, and depending on the scale of the PPT elimination, will not be enough money to fully fund all the recipients at their current level. In addition, when these funds do come in, they will be general fund monies subject to the same appropriations process that has continually attempted to cut other statutory obligations to local units.

The Future of PPT Repeal

The first and most important challenge faced by the legislature is where to come up with the money to reimburse local governments for the loss of the locally collected revenue. The second challenge is to determine which entities actually receive the funds and how the distribution should take place. Neither challenge is easy to overcome and neither challenge is likely to be met with agreement by all parties affected.

The Michigan Association of Counties has partnered with a coalition of other local units affected by personal property tax with a unified solution of a full constitutional replacement for the repeal of PPT. This coalition is working together and has one united message, that we need a permanent replacement for this funding stream. You can check out the coalition’s work at www.replacedonterase.com.

After briefly mentioning the personal property tax elimination in his State of the State speech on Wednesday, the Governor clarified that the proposal to eliminate the tax is not yet complete, but that he will be looking to local governments to develop the reimbursement model. He also indicated that there is no firm timeline for the issue to be resolved, indicating that there is a chance it may not get done this year. MAC takes the Governor at his word, and looks forward to working with him, the legislature, and other affected local governments on a funding replacement and guaranteeing it through the Constitution, should the personal property tax be eliminated.

For more information on what personal property tax means to your county, talking points and maps, please visit the MAC website at www.micounties.org.

Collective Impact – An Imperative for Local Government

Guest author – Wayman Britt, Kent County

For years, large public systems, school districts, private foundations and non-profit organizations have worked to improve the lives of children and families. For the most part, these efforts have been successful in making isolated impact, changing one life at a time. However, when we look at collective indicators like poverty rates, abuse/neglect rates, over-representation of minority children in the child welfare system, and standardized test scores of students in urban school district students, we see that the overall situation for children is not improving.

Incremental improvements made on an individual level are not enough to overcome the challenges families face, particularly as they struggle to deal with their new reality in a global economy and knowledge-based society.

Recently, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a study called ‘Double Jeopardy.’ In it, they identify the following:

  • One in six children not reading proficiently in 3rd grade does not graduate from high school on time – a rate four times greater than that of proficient readers.
  • 22 percent of children who have lived in poverty for at least one year do not graduate from high-school on time, compared to 6 percent of those who have never been poor. This jumps to 32 percent for students who are in poverty for more than half of their childhood.
  • Even among poor children who read proficiently in 3rd grade, 11 percent did not finish high school. That compares to 9 percent of subpar 3rd grade readers who have never been poor.

The condition of children and families has the potential of getting worse before it gets better. Michigan’s families are among the poorest in the nation. State reduction in funding for food stamps, utility payments, and homeless prevention services places a further burden on local governments to deal with the poor.

In addition, the federal budget has become unpredictable with legislators unable to resolve their differences, thus leading to funding uncertainty and reductions in workforce development programs, Community Development Block Grant funding and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Additionally, federal funding is becoming more prescriptive, which impacts local efforts to braid various resources to ensure students are ready to learn. Within this challenging funding environment, local government’s ability to respond creatively will be critical as we grapple with our own unique set of circumstances.

What can or should counties do to help solve this problem? Some might say this is a problem for the State to solve–that counties are burdened enough with balancing their own budgets. Also, with the potential reduction of personal property tax revenue, how can we possibly take on such a problem as complex as solving poverty?

It is critical that counties take this time to create a shared agenda and vision for working with the State of Michigan. Counties must utilize their collective leadership position to increase State support for local communities and counties must work together to alleviate the effects of poverty so that every child has the opportunity to compete in the global economy.

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