Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II addressed more than 100 township officials from across the state who gathered in Lansing today for the Michigan Townships Association’s (MTA) 2020 Capital Conference. He emphasized to the attendees the importance of townships and the hope of the governor to strengthen the relationship between local units of government and the state.
“It is an honor to be back here with MTA,” Gilchrist said. “I want to thank you for your leadership roles that you play that are critical to the vitality and the vibrance of communities across the state of Michigan. We value the dialogue, the collaboration, the partnership, and the opportunities to find more ways to work together and invest in one another.”
In addition to outlining the Whitmer administration’s state budget priorities—including improving access to health care, protecting the state’s drinking water and investments in education—Lt. Gov. Gilchrist noted that the governor’s budget proposal includes an increase in statutory revenue sharing, an investment in Michigan communities that MTA applauds. "We are trying to make up for the fact that revenue sharing has been disinvested in for a generation,” Gilchrist said, emphasizing the important partnership between the state and townships. “We need you to continue to stay at the table, continue to engage, continue to offer your perspective. Your advocacy is important, and we can work together.”
Prior to the Gilchrist’s keynote address, township officials were welcomed to the event by 2019 MTA President Jeff Sorensen, supervisor of Cooper Charter Township (Kalamazoo Co.), and MTA Executive Director Neil Sheridan.
“Your commitment to public service and advocating on behalf of township government is remarkable,” Sheridan told attendees. “Legislation eroding local control and preempting township authority is introduced and debated every day at the Capitol. We need your help to ensure that townships can continue to provide valued and essential services to more than half of Michigan’s residents.”
MTA’s Capital Conference is not only an opportunity for attendees—who traveled from as far as Gogebic County to attend the annual event—to hear firsthand on the issues that will impact townships and their residents over the year, it is also a chance for officials to speak directly to their legislators on their priorities. Each attendee was able to share a lunch with a state legislator or a member of their staff.
Breakout sessions at the annual event included addressing high water and erosion issues, the 2020 Census, the latest on marijuana regulations and changes and updates to the Uniform Chart of Accounts. Attendees heard from staff of the Michigan Department of Treasury; the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy; the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, & Budget; and the Marijuana Regulatory Agency.
The afternoon concluded with a legislative panel, allowing attendees to hear from the chairs and minority vice chairs on the House and Senate Transportation Committees—Sens. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) and Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), and Reps. Jack O’Malley (R-Almira Twp.) and Tim Sneller (D-Burton)—on challenges they face, possible road funding options and the likelihood of any reform in 2020.
“Our roads problem is a local roads problem,” said O’Malley, who introduced a package of transportation reform bills, including MTA-supported House Bill 4963 that would allow a county-level gas tax, with voter approval, that stays within the county to improve roads. “Michigan is the only state that does not allow local governments the option to raise money for their roads other than a millage or bond. We need to get more money to our locals.”