In Michigan
4:42 pm
Wed February 24, 2010

Commission says MI forces local gov'ts to pay billions

LANSING, MI –

A special state commission says Michigan is illegally forcing local governments to spend billions of dollars from their own treasuries. Legislative leaders say they will act soon to rein in unfunded mandates from the state.

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Cities, townships, counties and school districts told the commission they've been forced to pay more than $2 billion because of requirements forced on them by the state. That would violate the 1978 Headlee amendment to the state constitution that was approved by voters.

Dennis Pollard is an attorney who sat on the commission. He spent 17 years suing the state to recoup special education and transportation costs for school districts.

"The people are in charge and they've said very clearly through the Headlee amendment that if the state requires a local unit to do something they have to fund it and that hasn't been happening," he says.

The commission says it should be easier for local governments to challenge unfunded mandates from the state. And it says they should be allowed to ignore state laws that force them to pick up the tab.