State Budget Cuts Threaten Public Safety

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

Cut the cops to balance the budget.

That, local community leaders say, is the offshoot of more cuts proposed this week by the state legislature.

"In the last eight years, the state legislature and governor have cut over 3 billion dollars to state communities," said Robin Beltramini, president of the Michigan Municipal League.

She was one of many who gathered today across from the Capitol to protest cuts to the state's revenue-sharing agreement -- a program that allows Lansing legislators to share sales tax revenues with local governments.

As the budget gap widens, the sharing has ceased -- or at least been dramatically reduced.

One of the victims? Local police and fire units, the manpower of which has been slashed by 4,200 officers and fighers since September 2001.

"With the cuts this year alone, the city of Lansing has lost over 500,000 dollars," said Lansing Fire Chief Tom Cochran. "And that's severely impacting our ability to provide service."

The catch: The state's dealing with a budget shortfall of $1.8 billion. But at least one state legislator says cutting money for local communities is a dangerous solution.

"A concern is, when you're releasing prisoners from prison, and you're cutting state troopers, the burden of that is going to fall on local units of government," said state Rep. Paul Opsommer (R). "County jails will be a lot fuller."

It's a burden local communities aren't currently equipped to handle -- a major concern given Michigan's high violent crime rate, the worst of the Great Lakes states.

"It's going to not only endanger the citizens of Lansing and the rest of Michigan," Cochran warned. "But the firefighters and the police officers that won't have additional staffing out there."


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