Governments suing state over revenue sharing hope for hearing

By: Bria Brown | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 10, 2018

 The Taxpayers for Michigan Constitutional Government lawsuit against the state of Michigan, which the Headlee Amendment requires to pay 48.97 percent of revenues to local governments, may culminate in a hearing in the Michigan Court of Appeals in Detroit as early as this spring.

The Taxpayers for Michigan Constitutional Government lawsuit against the state of Michigan, which the Headlee Amendment requires to pay 48.97 percent of revenues to local governments, may culminate in a hearing in the Michigan Court of Appeals in Detroit as early as this spring.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — A case filed by Taxpayers for Michigan Constitutional Government — a group founded by former Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane and Wayne State University School of Law professor John Mogk that alleges that the state has withheld billions of dollars from local governments — could be heard at the Michigan Court of Appeals as early as this spring, according to a March 28 press release from the group.

The lawsuit focuses on the requirements of the Headlee Amendment, which requires the state to pay 48.97 percent of revenues to local governments.

Local governments that belong to TMCG include Eastpointe, Roseville, Warren, Center Line, Mount Clemens, Clinton Township, Utica, Hazel Park, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores.

TMCG and the state requested to have a hearing on the case and are waiting on a decision from a three-judge panel as of March 5. 

“If a hearing is denied, the judges will make (their) decision based on extensive filings submitted by all parties,” the released stated.

Mogk said the group is in a waiting stage. 

“We’re waiting to see if the court decides to hold a hearing — and if so, when? — or if the court elects not to hold a hearing and try the case on the briefs that have been submitted,” said Mogk. 

“It’s well-known that local governments are under financial stress, and so to that extent, if this lawsuit is successful, it will provide relief to those governments,” he added.  

According to the release, four statewide organizations came together to file an amicus brief in support of TMCG. An amicus brief is a document filed by someone who has a strong interest in a case’s matter and could provide additional information or arguments that a court may wish to consider.

The organizations that joined together on the brief were the Michigan Association of Counties; the Michigan Municipal League; the Michigan Townships Association; and the Government Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

“They became aware of the lawsuit, and they filed a motion to ask the court for permission to file a brief in support of our claims,” said Mogk. 

Former Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane said he’s confident about the state of the lawsuit’s future. 

“With a great legal team and support staff, I am very optimistic that we will prevail,” he added. “It was superbly well-written and we’re very happy with that.”

The lawsuit was filed in the fall of 2016. In May 2017, the Court of Appeals denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case. Mogk said the group “assembled all of the help now that we believe is needed to win the lawsuit.”

Duchane thanked those who have been a part of the process. 

“It’s been very enlightening, and I think our experts verified what John and I thought was the case. This has been the case for over a decade that they miscalculated,” said Duchane. 

“We really thank everybody; we’ve kept in contact with the elected officials, the appointed officials of all of our municipalities — our actual ones that are part of showing us support financially — we appreciate them especially, because they’ve helped raised funds for our experts and such. Everybody is doing this because we want it done right, and no one is getting personal gain out of it,” he added.

 “Should the Court of Appeals uphold TMCG’s claims, a major shift in the division of State revenues will occur requiring increased spending by the State on local governments and potentially relieving financial stress that many of them currently face. In turn, the State would be required to reduce its annual budget to remove State revenues diverted from local government spending,” the release stated. 

A call for comment was made to the Michigan Department of Attorney General Communication Division for comment and was not returned by press time. 

For more information about TMCG, visit michcongov.org.