A new poll shows Michigan voters outside of Detroit approve using state money to support the so-called “Grand Bargain” to bolster City of Detroit retirees’ pensions and protect the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection.
Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham reports.
The poll was commissioned by Michigan Radio and its partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.
It found almost half of voters outside the city of Detroit support the state government contributing $350 million to help solve some of the sticky issues of the bankruptcy. 49 percent favor the contribution, 34 percent oppose it.
So it’s not a solid majority. When we asked people on the street about the plan, we got similar mixed feelings.
“I’m not quite sure it would be worth it.”
“Yeah, I don’t really like that idea myself.”
“I think Detroit needs help.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, that’s questionable. They got themselves into the mess.”
But people like the plan better when they learn that $350 million would go to bolster the retirees’ pension funds and protect the Detroit Institute of Art from having to auction off part of its collection.
“I support that.”
“Yes, it would make a difference as long as it’s not going to people that don’t work.”
“If that’s the case, then, yes, I believe that’s a great idea.”
“Well, yeah. But it kind of needs to make sure the money goes where it’s supposed to go and it hasn’t really done that in the past.”
Bernie Porn is with EPIC-MRA, the firm which conducted the poll.
He says after you boil it down, when people know the money goes to retirees and to help the art museum, more people approve”
“When you do that, you end up with 62 percent support for the proposal and that includes 74 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Republicans, and then only 51 percent of independents.”
Another question asked about different approaches to doling out that money. The people polled do not like the idea of a one-time payment. They do like the idea of installment payments over 20 years. They also like taking that money from the state government’s rainy day fund and then paying the rainy day fund back with tobacco settlement money.
Governor Rick Snyder says that approach is worth considering.
“Yeah, well, the lump sum versus installment: I was always open to that. What I would say in terms of using the rainy day fund, I appreciate that’s how the House perceives the best answer. One thing they did include is replenishment of the rainy day fund.”
The big concern among legislators has been the appearance that the State of Michigan is bailing out Detroit. Governor Snyder says this is not a bail out and helping Detroit straighten out its bankruptcy is something that will help Michigan on several levels.
“The economic growth, the helping retirees that not necessarily are just in Detroit but they’re located all across Michigan. Think the power of everyone focused on saying, “Detroit’s growing,” as opposed to the last five or six decades of people talking about Detroit’s problems.”
Try explaining that to the legislators outside of Detroit who are afraid of a voter backlash. But Bernie Porn with EPIC-MRA says according to the poll, legislators don’t need to worry.
“This is not going to in any way, shape, or form negatively impact legislators running for election.”
55 percent of those polled indicated the way their legislators voted on the $350 million for the “Grand Bargain” would not affect whether they supported them. 27 percent indicated it would make them more likely to vote for them. Only 15 percent said less likely.
The poll results contradict conventional wisdom which says people outside of Detroit disapprove of state taxpayer dollars going to help the city find a better bankruptcy.
HistorianThomas Sugrue wrote a landmark book on how Detroit’s financial problems date back decades. He said during a recent speech that Michigan needs a financially healthy Detroit if the state as a whole is to succeed. But, in the past public attitudes have worked against that.
“Suburbanites often say, ‘It’s their problem not our problem.’ Folks in Lansing and out state say, ‘It’s their problem. I don’t want my tax dollars going into that sinkhole.’”
This new Detroit Journalism Cooperative poll indicates Michigan voters outside of Detroit might be cautiously willing to offer support as long as they know exactly where the money is going and it won’t just be lost in that “sinkhole.”