Gov. Rick Snyder has signed the legislation that authorizes the state’s $195 million contribution to the Detroit bankruptcy settlement and creates additional oversight of the city’s finances and operations. The governor called the settlement, part of the “grand bargain,” a good deal for taxpayers because it sets the stage for the city’s comeback.
“This is about how not just Detroit but the spirit of Michigan came back,” Snyder said at the signing, held at the Globe Building near the Detroit Riverfront, which is under construction to become a Department of Natural Resources recreation center. “While we celebrate today, let’s recognize that there’s more work to be done.”
The governor said the day Detroit filed bankruptcy could be the “darkest chapter” in the city’s history, but the Governor says the taxpayer donation shows the entire state is behind the Detroit recovery effort. “Detroit, Michigan, means something special. It’s not Detroit versus Michigan or Michigan versus Detroit. It’s Detroit, Michigan, and we should hold our heads proud,” he said to applause.
There are conditions attached to the state contribution– including a commission that will supervise Detroit’s contracts and finances for years into the future. The money, along with hundreds of millions donated by businesses and foundations, will be used to mitigate cuts to pension benefits in the bankruptcy process. But pensioners still have to approve the deal. In exchange, they’d give up their rights to sue for their full benefits or other related issues.
“A ‘yes’ vote from pensioners is a vote for their own well being,” he said, “and the continuation of a message that is greater than bankruptcy.”
House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said the Legislature’s passage of the “grand bargain” bills represented how connected the state was in helping Detroit. “We may come from different peninsulas, but as we stand here today, we are all one Michigan,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, (R-Monroe), who showed off his made-in-Detroit Shinola watch, said one of the reasons providing state funding for Detroit’s pensions was important was because city workers live throughout the state “in all 83 counties.” (Here’s a map of where they live)
Rep. Thomas Stallworth (D-Detroit) said the city’s bankruptcy, in part, represents failure on the part of political leadership for the people of Detroit. He urged pensioners to vote “yes” on the Plan of Adjustment, saying it represents the “best possible deal for the city.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan echoed the themes of voting yes, bipartisanship and “coming together.” He said, “What you have done with this bill is give us a fresh chance,” and it “will turn out to be one of the proudest things you’e done.”
As he did last week at the news conference at the Detroit Institute of Arts where the Detroit Three automakers announced their $26 million contribution to the “grand bargain” , U.S. District Chief Judge Gerald Rosen spoke. He is considered the architect of the “grand bargain” and has led the mediation efforts in the bankruptcy case.
“This is leadership, not just bi-partisan, but the three branches of government coming together,” Rosen said. “This isn’t a final victory lap. We’ve got a couple more laps to run.”
Also as he did last week, Rosen lauded Don Taylor and Shirley Lightsey, who head up police/fire and non-uniform retiree groups respectively.
Lightsey spoke directly to pensioners, saying “If you let that (grand bargain) money go and it’s off the table, you will have no sympathy from anyone. … Think about your decision. This is something you are going to have to live with.”
Lightsey also repeated her phrase that has been printed on buttons worn by some in the crowd of about 200. “We can’t eat principles, and uncertainty does not pay the bills.”
-By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda and Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta
Here’s audio of Rick Pluta’s report.