On February 16, Michigan’s Governor Snyder signed into law a sweeping emergency financial management bill, one that will give him wide powers to appoint financial managers across the state. Cities in financial distress will be assigned emergency managers, who will have the power to suspend collective bargaining, terminate city employees, even dissolve local governments completely — whatever is deemed necessary in the pursuit of a “balanced budget.”
Critics have called it the most undemocratic legislative measure in recent United States history.
The plan, Gov. Snyder claims, is a response to the very real budget problems facing Michigan. Many cities across the state face default. Add to that high unemployment, cities in disrepair, and the collapse of vital industries, and the situation can rightly be deemed an emergency.
Perhaps no city is more emblematic of the challenges facing the state than Detroit. The city has an annual budget deficit of $155 million, and long-term debt totaling $5.7 billion. Less than half of its students graduate high school. There are parts of the city where streetlights don’t come on at night and trash goes uncollected.