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Posted on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

'Michigan is the second most-governed state in the United States,' Senate majority leader says

By Ryan J. Stanton

All six of Washtenaw County's representatives in the state Legislature raised their hands today when asked if they thought Michigan has too many levels of government.

"The difficultly here is Michigan is the second most-governed state in the United States. In elected officials per capita, we are No. 2 only behind Pennsylvania," said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, whose district includes part of Washtenaw County.

"We have one county in Michigan — and it's not Wayne County, it's Kent County — that has 683 elected officials," he said. "That's Congress plus 250 more people to run one county."


Randy Richardville

Richardville didn't let Wayne County off the hook, though.

"Wayne County has 40 chiefs of police," he said. "Do you think you'd be safer with 35 new officers maybe and five chiefs of police?"

Richardville's comments came during a one-hour legislative panel discussion as part of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber's annual Impact public policy forum.

The program was moderated by Tim Skubick, anchor and producer of the weekly public television series “Off the Record." About 125 people attended the event at the Ann Arbor Sheraton. It touched on education, legislative initiatives and economic development.

Joining Richardville on stage for the legislative panel discussion were state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, and state Reps. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township; Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor; David Rutledge, D-Superior Township; and Rick Olson, R-York Township.

Five of the six lawmakers — all but Olson — agreed the state isn't spending enough money on education. But the Republicans still maintained the deep cuts they handed down to schools and universities this year were needed to help get Michigan's fiscal house in order.

"This was a top priority," Ouimet said, though he acknowledged upon further questioning from Skubick: "I don't think it improved education."

All six lawmakers agreed the state is spending too much money on prisons. Warren pointed out 25 percent of the state's general fund dollars are spent on corrections now.

"I'd like to see more of those dollars focusing in on early childhood education so we can spend less on prisons," she said. "Because we spend right now about $7,300 per pupil as the floor for our K-12 funding, but in our prison system it could be $30,000 to $50,000 per person."

Warren also said she'd "absolutely" like to see more people released from prison, suggesting the state locks up too many people.

"We put people in Michigan in jail and in our prison system for longer sentences for crimes that other states that are in our back yard do not sentence people to prison for at all," she said.

All six lawmakers seemed to agree that eliminating the state's personal property tax — the tax businesses pay on equipment — is worth considering, but they all stressed that they don't want to deal another blow to local governments by not providing replacement revenue.


Jeff Irwin

Most indicated they wanted a dollar-for-dollar replacement.

"Our local governments depend very much on this revenue," Irwin said. "And I think it's important to mention that, when we talk about local governments depending on this revenue, that means public safety. That's where the police and fire is provided."

Rutledge said he'd be more supportive of eliminating the personal property tax if he could be convinced it seriously impacts whether a company locates or expands in Michigan.

"If you wanted to put local governments out of business, really, I think this would be one step toward that," he said of eliminating the tax without identifying replacement revenue.

The Republicans characterized the elimination of the personal property tax as the second phase of a two-part overhaul of the state's business tax structure. That started earlier this year with the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax.

Richardville and Ouimet suggested the Republicans got an undeserved bad rap for the $1.8 billion tax cut to corporations while reducing funding for education.

"What actually happened is the limited liability corporations, the smaller corporations, those S corps with 100 employees or less, which provide 80 percent of the jobs in Michigan, are the ones that got the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax," Richardville said.

Ouimet said about 95,000 limited liability corporations saw their tax rates lowered, while the tax rate for large businesses and Fortune 500 companies "actually stayed the same or went up."

Richardville said he thinks local governments in Michigan have taken a look at their budgets and have done the best they could to make cuts and provide more efficient services.

He said he's now interested in putting forward enabling legislation to encourage more consolidation, but he's not interested in forcing it upon local governments.

"The definitions that are in statute today would not allow townships and different municipalities to consolidate," he said. "So even though some are looking at it and would like to do it, they've come to us and said, 'Can you change some of those definitions and let us take a shot at it first, before big government comes in and tells us what's best for us?'"

Richardville said the state's education problem is not just about what's happening within schools, but also what's happening within families.

"Our teachers are asked to be baby sitters, they're asked to be counselors, they're asked to be psychologists," he said.

Commenting on the state's "brain drain," Irwin said there are a lot of ways the state could help retain young people without it costing any money. He suggested the Legislature could "stop beating up on the University of Michigan for studying stem cells."

"We shouldn't be chasing away our best researchers and trying to frustrate our best economic development entity in the entire state by telling them not to do life-saving developmental research," he said, suggesting the state also should be more tolerant of homosexuals.

The six lawmakers offered a mix of viewpoints when asked if they support a second bridge to Canada. The proposed bridge across the Detroit River, which would be publicly owned but privately financed, is supported by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Olson said he's opposed to the project. The three Democrats suggested their support would be conditional, while Ouimet and Richardville both said they're in favor of it.

"I think we definitely need a second span and the state should definitely be involved in making that happen, but the devil's in the details," Irwin said. "Conceptually we need a second span, but not if it's a bad deal for the public. This public-private partnership can be structured in a million different ways and I want to make sure that the public is protected."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:29 a.m.

Communication: interesting that these Republicans are doing as poor a job at explaining to the public what their plan is - as the Dems did explaining their universal health care bill. Honestly - I had not heard until now any these specifics involved in reducing the cost of Michigan's government - or prisons. One would think that some of these politicians would send us a tweet! lol! Ironic that we're supposed to be living in the Age of Communication - there's darned little of that going on!


Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 3:04 a.m.

Start cutting the "fat" out of the "too many layers" in Michigan government. Eliminate the "gerrymandering" in jusristictions. Impose public campaign funding with spending caps, provide treatment and jobs for drug offenders instead of sending them to prison, eliminate collective bargaining for government employees, enhance the punishment for corrupt government employees and officials with "set" prison sentences to eliminate "dudicial discretion", and we'll be on our way to a government that functions for the "public good" rather than personal gain.

Tom Todd

Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

When the Government tells Counties and Municipalities that have been watching there every dollar since the down turn in the economy and have been leaving positions open and or eliminating them when someone retires and in turn giving the current employees the luxury of trying to be in two places at once, that now they have to have concessions in retirement benefits and health care coverage is called Big Government telling those that have already been sacrificing that they are in thanks but we will take more category.


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

"We put people in Michigan in jail and in our prison system for longer sentences for crimes that other states that are in our back yard do not sentence people to prison for at all," she said. YES! You have no idea. My fiancee was sentenced in 2002 to 13-50 years for a first-offense drug-related (heroin addiction) extortion charge. No one was harmed or hurt, and he's been clean and sober since his first day in prison. He's a devout Christian now, and a smart, humble guy who lost his best friend to the same addiction. He just wants a second chance at life, but he's got at least another 4 more years to go. Unbelievable! Way too harsh of a sentence. He could easily be out here in a stable home with friends and family that care about him, and continue his life as a tax-paying member of society. He's already cost the state $360,000 to house him. WHY? Why doesn't our state have a good-time bill, particularly those who are first-time or non-violent offenders and have done a significant chunk of their time. It makes no sense!!!!


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

This is related to another post I made on another closely related forum. Both the Governor and legislature here in Virginia have approval ratings over 60%. I don't know how many states have a similar situation. There are 120+ different city and county governments, but there doesn't exist the multi-layering to such an extent there seems to be in Michigan, where, honestly, I didn't really pay that much attention when growing up until the age of 24. One of the other states in a colossal fiscal mess also suffers from too many local governments and layers of government, California, and of course it has a whole lot of other issues and mismanagement as well. Somewhat related to Michigan, the teachers have sweet health care benefits, little to no cost when working and when retired, which they can do at a relatively early age and continue to be underwritten by taxpayers for decades, often as long as they actually worked teaching.


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

More inane, standard, non-productive, meaningless political rhetoric pointing the finger of blame at Michigan's politico-economic malaise . . .crafted by whom? These same policiticians & their ilk.


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 12:40 p.m.

Frankly, we have just way too much government. We the people, for the most, part surely know how to take care of ourselves. If the government was cut in half, we would all benefit nicely.


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.

Hey, stop complaining: We have the best legislature money can buy. Just ask Matty Moroun.


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 3:57 a.m.

I agree a part-time, unicameral legislature would work just fine for Michigan. However, living in rural Northern Michigan, it matters not which party holds power in Lansing as the majority of them come from the southeast side of the state. This relegates us in the north to distant cousins with little or no say in how legislation and state mandates affect us. Everything from education and funding for roads, to rules and regulations for fire and ems personnel. Being rural, our circumstances present a unique set of challenges as well as opportunities. Worse yet, are those who served as elected officials downstate, then retire and move north. Many are legends in their own minds who feel they need to run for office again and operate our townships as if they were still in the city. We don't need protection from ourselves, we need protection from Lansing. Matters not whether the Democrats or Republicans hold the power...


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 3:51 a.m.

Maybe they should start by eliminating all Emergency Financial Manager positions.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Yup, BB, you are rigtht. And then the current legislature and the guv changed the EM law. Good Night and Good Luck

Basic Bob

Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 9:45 a.m.

No reduction there. They were counting Elected officials. BTW, there are only four Emergency Managers. And you probably knew that Jennifer Granholm's treasury department declared all four emergencies.


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

Michigan has lots of municipalities and locals without a lot of coordination and there is waste. There's definitely room to improve, but I'm not sure anyone can do much but offer a carrot to improve things. Things don't go so well when with increased size, badly manage problems on the little level just become badly managed problems on a bigger scale. That bridge just might get through, and that's probably a good thing. If it's a net gain of money coming into the state, with work and improvements for roads, I'm all for it. Ouimet keeps standing out in the cold compared to the other legislators in the area. He's got to remember, this all Republican majority isn't gonna last... I will never agree that the size of the tax breaks small business got this year was a good idea. Snyder could have just cut it by half, to three percent with a yearly percentage decrease for the following three year, and used the increased revenue from taxing the bigger companies more, and not punish the school districts. There was other legislation that they could have done, like the 80/20 or dollar push the districts along into more austere measures, and get the concessions they were looking for with the unions, but the large cuts to the schools were out of control bad policy decisions, and as much as the Repubs want to curb the unions, what they did instead was make bigger classrooms, and less support for everyone in a school building. Parents have long memories.

greg formella

Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 1:33 a.m.

..........and the sad thing is that none of their agendas have contributed to anything but laws designed to move money from the producers into coffers which expands their usurped power structure even further. So for the most part we have a government that is virtually a family business.....if you doubt this try to get a cushy government job most of which are posted internally.....then after the position is filled see which relative of whom is on the payroll.....the secret entitlement program that no one wishes to correct....


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

Wow, get ready for more big government from Lansing. Senator Richardville is a big government advocate and like the rest of his cronies in Lansing want to send more control to the State and away from local government. Why is the State Senate putting its nose into local government?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

Republicans aren't advocates of Big Government . . . except when they are. Little that the state legislature and that the guv have done in the last 9 months fall under small government. For but one example, "small government" would allow local school boards and municipalities to decide how to pay for health care benefits, not some arbitrary fiat from the legislature. There are others. Good Night and Good Luck


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 6:38 a.m.

Ah, Richardville is a republican, so I think he'd be surprised to be described as a big government advocate.


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

"our best economic development entity in the entire state?" I'm sorry but aren't you the same people that allowed U of M to buy the old Pfizer property, losing millions in tax revenue? Richardville said the state's education problem is not just about what's happening within schools, but also what's happening within families."Our teachers are asked to be baby sitters, they're asked to be counselors, they're asked to be psychologists," he said. The teachers aren't asked to be anything. They're forced. Think about it dude. Do you really think people go into the teaching profession thinking, boy this will be fun. I'll be blamed for every child's deficit this year. It's happening within families, because it's allowed to be. The legal system allows Daddy and Mommy Perfect to blame (i.e., sue) "the schools" because little Junior Perfect isn't living up to his name and the teachers give him bad grades because, well, he deserves them. But that's not acceptable because it's not that he's stupid. He's gifted and he'll never get into a good college if you give him the grades he deserves. Just a side thought....aren't you part of the government that you say is too heavily governed?


Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 6:35 a.m.

Did you see a big line up of firms wanting to buy the Pfizer property? No, actually, after failing to sell and nothing in the pipeline, Pfizer approached UM and they eventually agreed to buy. They are now investing in the property, preventing decay, and will have 1,700 people working there by the end of 2012. Presumably these people pay taxes and contribute to Ann Arbor, why some may even live here and own property and pay property taxes, and eat out, and well, you get the picture. I hope. What is it with this constant UM bashing? 1,700 people will work there, besides the facilities being maintained, improved, expanded, new business ventures formed there!

Urban Sombrero

Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 12:36 a.m.

"We have too much government in this state! But, please, donate to my campaign!"


Fri, Oct 14, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

He's right. With the third highest paid state legislature in the nation and the fact that they only meet about 90 days per year, I think that a part-time, unicameral legislature is exactly what this state needs.

hut hut

Fri, Oct 14, 2011 : 11:37 p.m.

'Michigan is the second most-governed state in the United States,' Senate majority leader says What a completely stupid non sequitur. "For sound bite purposes only" in the fine print. I wouldn't expect anything else from a Republican


Fri, Oct 14, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

Interesting. Mostly the discussion is about elected officials being counted to make up the "most-governed state" number. There is some benefit in having elected officials but too many throws the system off balance where accountability (presumably) matters more than effective gov't action. I wonder how many committees or councils around this state could cut one or two members and still do its work? I would guess all of them. Since Detroit has and is shrinking why not cut the council membership numbers there?

Tom Joad

Fri, Oct 14, 2011 : 11:26 p.m.

All taking care of themselves very nicely, indeed. The amount of campaign time, posturing, influence, money and ego involved in all levels of government is sickening a definite sign of a broken government that neither serves the people nor the public interest.