Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday celebrated House passage of bills that would facilitate a “grand bargain” to help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy and minimize pension cuts for retirees.
The 11-bill package, now headed to the Senate, would send $194.8 million to Detroit and create a long-term oversight commission to govern city finances. Foundations, the Detroit Institute of Arts and labor unions are also contributing to the grand bargain.
“This was truly a bipartisan team effort that wasn’t about politics but stepping up to do the right thing for all the citizens of Michigan,” said Snyder, who began to publicly push for the funding in late January.
“This was truly an opportunity to come together and say ‘Let’s change the direction of Detroit.’ The city is already coming back in many ways, but from a public sector perspective, this really helps create an environment for success.”
Snyder was joined at an afternoon press conference by House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), House Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh (R-Livonia) and Rep. Thomas Stallworth III (D-Detroit).
Outside the governor’s office, Americans For Prosperity state director Scott Hagerstrom blasted the House action and said his organization was already preparing direct mailers targeting lawmakers who voted for the package.
“I think Michigan taxpayers are sick and tired of continuing to subsidize the bad behavior by Detroit politicians — and in some cases, criminal behavior,” Hagerstrom told reporters. “They are enabling bad behavior and this has to stop We can’t keep writing huge checks for Detroit.”
The legislation includes a series of strings designed to protect the taxpayer investment and ensure that Detroit finances are well managed into the future.
The oversight commission, modeled after a similar version in New York City, would operate for at least 13 years — and potentially much longer. It could go dormant if the city meets financial goals in three consecutive years and dissolve after a decade.
Supporters also say the state could save money in the long run by settling the bankruptcy now, reducing legal bills and potential social service costs down the line.
The House approved the main oversight bill in resounding fashion with a 103-7 vote. The financing bills were approved by narrower but still significant margins in 75-35 and 74-36 votes. Afterwards, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle broke out into applause.
Bolger called it a “monumental day” for Detroit and Michigan. Greimel said the package “protects retirees and makes sure they are not forced into poverty through draconian cuts that would have occurred absent this legislation.”
Snyder acknowledged there is still more work to do in the Senate but said he hoped Thursday’s vote totals will spur quick action in the upper chamber.
Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) said Wednesday that he does not expect to vote on the package before the Mackinac Policy Conference.