By PATRICK HOWARD
Capital News Service
LANSING – Local officials are divided over a proposal to use $140 million of the state’s budget surplus to put 1,000 new cops and deputies on the street.
Mason County Undersheriff Tom Trenner said the addition of officers is a positive thing, especially in such tough economic times.
Trenner also said that with local departments depleted, there is a demand for more officers. He said the cuts to revenue sharing have slowed officers’ response time to reported crimes, making the public less safe.
However, Attorney Gen. Bill Schuette’s initiative — $140 million investment for 1,000 cops over a two-year span — has its critics as well.
Sen. Geoff Hansen, R-Hart, expressed his concerns about the proposal.
“It’s one-time money,” Hansen said. “I personally don’t like the idea – you have to be careful how you manage surplus money.”
Hansen said the initiative is well-intended and that the public would love to have more cops around.
But he said the proposal is not sustainable and that the money would be better spent in smaller increments so other public services could benefit as well.
He also noted that the state has a “rainy day fund,” which is essentially a savings account.
“Ultimately, we need to look at our long-term liabilities and make decisions based on that,” Hansen said. “These short-term fixes are part of what gets us into trouble economically.”
Pentwater police Chief Laude Hartrum said if the state is to invest money in law enforcement, it should be done at the county and local levels rather than the state level.
“I haven’t read the proposal and the devil is always in the details,” Hartrum said. “That being said, if there is money available to provide for county and local law enforcement, that would be a good thing.”
Hartrum said recent cuts to revenue sharing and the possible repeal of the state’s personal property tax hurt local law enforcement.
He stressed the need for a revenue stream that the state could use to redirect the surplus money to counties to make up for amounts lost. He said Schuette’s initiative wouldn’t do the counties any good if funding can’t be provided year in and year out.
Gov. Rick Snyder made it clear in his State of the State address that law enforcement is a top priority, stressing that Michigan is home to four of the nation’s most violent cities: Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Pontiac.
However, it is unclear whether Snyder will endorse Schuette’s proposal.
Schuette said, “Michigan will never fully flourish unless our governments can fulfill their basic task: protecting public safety.”
“When families and job creators live in fear, no student can learn, no company will create a job, and no family can walk the streets of their own neighborhood in peace,” he said.
Schuette said the state has lost 3,200 law enforcement officers since Sept. 11, 2001, making it a priority to hire more cops.
But Trenner said, “Everybody is going to want some of that surplus money.”
© 2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By PATRICK HOWARD