The annual Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day is a fantastic Michigan tradition. It’s great for our state, our state’s tourism, and our state’s image. Oh, and it takes place on the state-owned Mackinac Bridge, which is operated by the Mackinac Bridge Authority — an independent state agency.
But now the state wants local communities surrounding the bridge to help the state cover the costs of the Labor Day bridge walk. That’s just not a feasible option.
The future of the long-standing bridge walk has been in doubt due to increasing costs to operate the event. One idea the Mackinac Bridge Authority has come up with is to have the three communities closest to the walk — Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island and St. Ignace — form a plan to help share in the cost of the bridge walk and present those ideas to the authority at its February meeting.
That’s ridiculous. It’s not clear what the MBA meant by “local communities.” But there is no way that the municipalities within these communities can — or should — do anything on top of what they are already doing to support this great state event. Since 2002, state revenues that are allocated to Michigan communities decreased 56 percent while revenues to the state went up 27 percent. The state balanced its budget on the back of local municipalities.
And now a state agency again wants local communities to bail them out and help pay for an event that benefits the entire state?
Over the past 15 years, the state has diverted $8.1 billion that communities were counting on to provide necessary services to their residents” public safety, street and sidewalk repair, public utilities, recreational and cultural amenities, and other essential investments that create flourishing local economies. Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island and St. Ignace, for example, have seen a combined $1.3 million in expected revenue sharing diverted from their communities to the state in the last decade and a half.
Their ability to fund basic services has been seriously curtailed. Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, in particular, aren’t even eligible for state public safety reimbursements like fire protection grant funding even though those communities provide police, fire and ambulance services for incidents that occur on the Mackinac Bridge and its approaches. Funding a state tourism event is just out of the question.
The state needs to figure out this issue and come up with a statewide funding solution.
Michigan Municipal League Board of Trustees