Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

January 19, 2014

State aid for Detroit may be tough sell in Capitol

LANSING (AP) — In his annual speech to a statewide audience, Gov. Rick Snyder avoided asking the public what he had already floated privately with lawmakers: state aid to help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy.

It’s politically tricky terrain for the Republican governor and lawmakers uncomfortable with talk of a “bailout.” Snyder appears to have some allies in the leadership of the Republican-led Legislature, but other legislators are worried about state financial assistance to Detroit setting a precedent if other cities collapse.

They have their own spending priorities, too.

“I represent mid-Michigan taxpayers. They’re looking for more funding for their roads and their schools and their revenue sharing,” Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge said after Snyder met with the Senate Republican caucus Thursday, the same day of his State of the State address. “I have to think about my constituents, the people I represent. Although I want to assist the governor in transitioning Detroit into a new vibrant city, I’m going to be very reluctant to vote for funding.”

Snyder is gauging support for a state commitment of roughly $350 million over 20 years, matching $330-plus million in commitments to date from national and local foundations to shore up Detroit’s pension plans and prevent the sale of valuable city-owned art. Other foundations are expected to soon announce their participation in the effort to help address two of the bigger issues facing the insolvent city.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who last year introduced a bill to prohibit the sale of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection to help with Detroit’s financial crisis, said he had seen no plan or request, and other lawmakers said Snyder spoke more of a concept and not much specifics. But Richardville was cautiously optimistic that a solution would be put forth soon and said legislators understand the city’s importance to Michigan.

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