Opinion | With Michigan at a crossroads, here’s a roadmap for Lansing

Eric Scorsone is associate professor and director of the Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy at Michigan State University

The Michigan and national economies have been growing for over a decade now, though state and local government finances are still recovering from the Great Recession. Michigan’s next governor and legislature must act now on the biggest challenges facing the state, while the economic wind is at the state’s back.

To help inform policy discussions about these challenges, this month the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy, which is part of Michigan State University Extension, is introducing a series of white papers on its Michigan at a Crossroads website. Michigan at a Crossroads is supported in part by funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The white papers are written by experts who cover topics such as the state economy and taxes, future challenges for the state budget, Great Lakes management and use, municipal water quality, demographics and workforce development, and local government finances. Video interviews with the authors accompany the white papers.

Michigan has faced both economic turmoil and economic renewal in the past two decades. The 2000s started with the so-called one-state recession, which ended in 2008-09 when the state joined the nation in its worst period of economic decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

During that period, the state’s largest corporation, General Motors, and largest city, Detroit, filed for bankruptcy protection and faced truly calamitous outcomes, while the state government faced a cash crisis. Nearly a decade later, Michigan’s economy looks quite different in many ways.

Today, many of the jobs lost in the first decade of the 2000s have been replaced, the auto industry has been on a strong run since 2009, Detroit is on its way to becoming a vibrant and growing city once again. State government has begun addressing decades’ of legacy cost liabilities and has rebuilt its reserve and cash funds.

However, underlying structural problems remain. The Flint water crisis is only a symptom of the much larger water quality crisis that is brewing in the state. Michigan’s overall infrastructure remains a critical challenge, we still have serious social problems, and the economic recovery has yet to reach far too many households.

I encourage you to read all of the white papers in the Michigan at a Crossroads series, starting with “Michigan’s Post-Recession Spending,” by Sara Wycoff McCauley. This important paper discusses the state budget, which has increased by almost $6 billion (not including federal funds) since 2011.

Sharply differing proposals and counterproposals for addressing these and other challenges have come from both sides of the political aisle. What I hope we can agree on is the extent and nature of the problems we face, so that our next governor and state legislature can take the steps needed to address these critical issues.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

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Comments

John Kateel
Sun, 11/18/2018 - 10:25am

Being a Michigander who has lived in Utah for 20 years, I have seen 2 different approaches to development. In recent years it seems like metro Detroit has wanted a holistic regional approach like wildly successful Silicon Slopes here on the Wasatch Front, but the obstacle was L Brooks Patterson in Oakland County. With the latest election, and a regional friendly commission we can look forward to Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, and Livingston county solve problems as a unit.

One advancement is regional transit the implements a 'final' mile solution that entails integrating mass transit with Lyft and Uber.

The future is now!

Matt
Wed, 11/21/2018 - 7:34am

Many bad ideas are just as likely to be the result of your collaborative approach only bigger! Kent even into Ottawa county has a county wide bus system supported by a widespread tax. The result is a bunch of largely empty money puking buses screwing up traffic for the rest of us. The results are kept deliberately opaque if not out and out misleading. If surrounding counties were involved would this change? Yes! It would puke even bigger piles of money!

Michele Berry
Tue, 11/27/2018 - 11:20am

One thing The potus said was true USA has plenty of money. It is the will to spend it in the right direction. We all pay our taxes, corps and 500 k can pay more. Healthcare needs to be universal taking the burden off corporations. Education must have a national system. Governing For and By the People. Whitmer and many other new real representation also believe in investing in community and people. This will allow us to do anything. The American Dream is alive and well.

Michele Berry
Tue, 11/27/2018 - 11:19am

One thing The potus said was true USA has plenty of money. It is the will to spend it in the right direction. We all pay our taxes, corps and 500 k can pay more. Healthcare needs to be universal taking the burden off corporations. Education must have a national system. Governing For and By the People. Whitmer and many other new real representation also believe in investing in community and people. This will allow us to do anything. The American Dream is alive and well.