CHICAGO - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Wednesday launched an online campaign targeting six controversial November ballot measures, saying they could blunt the state’s fragile recovery from a decade-long recession.
In a series of YouTube videos and a blog post, the Republican governor urged Michiganders to vote ‘no’ on five of the measures and ‘yes’ on one that would maintain the state’s current emergency management law.
“I respect the initiative process as a fundamental democratic right, but the proposed constitutional amendments in November’s election have potentially dangerous long-term consequences for Michigan,” Snyder said. “Enshrining these seriously flawed proposals within our constitution would roll back positive reforms that are helping reinvent our state, and I encourage citizens to view them with skepticism.”
One of the most controversial measures asks voters if they want to keep the state’s one-year-old emergency management law overseeing fiscally stressed local governments. A “no” vote would overturn Public Act 4.
Snyder called it a “good law” that strengthened previous law in two key areas: providing an early-warning system for distressed communities and increasing an emergency manager’s powers. The new powers include the ability to unilaterally amend or terminate labor contracts, write ordinances, or even dissolve municipal boundaries -- powers that critics call anti-democratic.
“When you get a community in real crisis, it’s important we work together to avoid things like bankruptcy, which would be a much worse answer,” Snyder said.
Municipal finance experts agree that the defeat of Public Act 4 could spell trouble for troubled communities.
“PA 4 is basically a quasi-bankruptcy provision that is necessary for those places that do need it,” said Eric Scorsone, a municipal finance economist at Michigan State University. “If it goes down, then it gets quite a bit harder to deal with these issues.”
If the law survives, Scorsone expects to see more consent agreements crafted with the state, such as the one between Michigan and Detroit. Consent agreements allow local officials to remain in power but heighten state oversight.
“Detroit’s consent agreement really set the stage for intervention in other places,” he said. “If PA 4 does survive, I think we see more use of consent agreements rather than with emergency managers.”
State Treasurer Andy Dillon has urged lawmakers to consider writing a new law if PA 4 is struck down.
Snyder also urged residents to defeat a proposal that would require voter approval to build any international bridge. The referendum is the latest salvo in a years-long debate between the state and the family that owns the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Canada.
A new bridge is a top Snyder priority. His public-private partnership plan would rely on up to $950 million of bonds backed by toll revenues and Canada’s back up pledge.
Snyder said the project will mean thousands of new jobs and economic development. “This is a winning opportunity for Michiganders and we shouldn’t let one special interest get in the way of good public policy.”
The governor also criticized a measure that would require a two-thirds vote from the Legislature to implement tax changes. Supporters tout the fact that it would make tax increases more difficult, but Snyder said it would also make it tougher to pass tax reductions or eliminations. He noted that the Legislature last year eliminated the unpopular Michigan Business Tax, acting on the governor’s support.
“That did not pass by a two-thirds vote,” Snyder said. “Again, here is a case that on the face of it looks good, but when you look at the details it could really restrain us.”
He also urged ‘no votes’ on a measure to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution and one that would require home health care workers to join a union.