The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

MAC's director updates county board on legislation



Bessemer — Insuring adequate funding for court systems is one of the “wins” the Michigan Association of Counties has supported recently, its executive director told the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.

Stephan Currie outlined issues MAC has been tackling and is prepared to tackle.

He said a task force on how state court systems are funded has been assigned, but has not yet met.

Currie said huge cuts to revenue sharing payments to counties have caused MAC to ponder if that’s the proper funding model from the state.

Efforts to reform Michigan’s Tax Tribunal and the city of Escanaba’s case in front of the Supreme Court regarding the “dark store” issue are being followed closely in the Upper Peninsula.

In recent years, the Michigan Tax Tribunal has used a theory to determine the assessed value of fully functional big box retail stores that MAC believes should be reformed. The result is lower than expected property valuations for the stores because instead of using true cash value, the property is compared to the sales of vacant structures that most often have deed restrictions that severely limit their use. It also has led to buildings being kept empty and adding to the blight problem in Michigan townships, MAC believes.

Once limited to primarily “big box” stores, MAC officials have said the issue now has a larger impact to state and local governments, as fast food restaurants, auto parts stores and national chain pharmacies are seeking the same treatment for lowered taxes, all at the expense of local governments, their taxpaying residents and other businesses in the community.

MAC is also backing legislation in the Senate to improve the performance of the child care fund, he said.

He also addressed unfunded liabilities, an issue that directly affects Gogebic County and the former Michigan Works pension funding squabble that is around four years old. U.P. counties believe the state should cover the pensions.

Currie said MAC opposes moving 17-year-olds out of the prison system into the juvenile facilities because the cost is unknown. Seventeen-year-olds in Michigan are considered adults in the court system.

Commissioners learned MAC has not taken a stance on the no-fault insurance reform issue. The county board has strongly backed getting insurance costs down for Michigan residents, prompted by commissioner Bob Orlich, of Wakefield.

Commissioner Joe Bonovetz, of Bessemer, was recently appointed to the MAC board and he said he intends to bring up the insurance issue at the next MAC meeting.

Currie said it’s a fact that many Michigan residents don’t really know what county government is all about.

He said there are 25 former county commissioners in the Michigan House of Representatives and 11 in the Senate.

MAC has its office in Lansing and Currie is on a U.P. swing, visiting Copper Peak earlier on Wednesday.


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