Kate Linebaugh as a very good article on municipal consolidation efforts in Michigan in the WSJ:
Michigan has 1,773 municipalities, 609 school districts, 1,071 fire departments and 608 police departments. Gov. Rick Snyder wants some of them to disappear.
The governor is taking steps to bring about the consolidation of municipal services, even whole municipalities, in order to cut budgets and eliminate redundant local bureaucracies. His blueprint, which relies on legal changes and financial incentives, calls for a “metropolitan model” of government that would combine resources across cities and their suburbs…
Around the country public officials are asking themselves similar questions. Plunging property-tax receipts and rising pension and health-care costs have pushed many municipalities to the brink of financial collapse. The idea is that local governments can operate with fewer workers and smaller budgets if they do things like combine fire departments, create regional waste authorities and fold towns and cities into counties…
Proponents of consolidation come from both ends of the political spectrum. Some conservatives argue that having fewer layers and divisions of government is cost-efficient and improves the economic climate by streamlining regulation and taxation. Some liberals support eliminating local-government boundaries that they say have cemented economic and racial disparities between cities and surrounding towns.
It’s great to see a Republican Governor embrace a regionalism agenda that’s typically associated with liberals. This is also not the only area where Governor Snyder is prioritizing metro-led economic growth of the sort that Brookings is normally advocating.
As I’ve argued elsewhere, this is an obvious policy agenda for Tom Corbett to embrace, since he currently has nothing to say about what local governments ought to do in response to the massive state deficits he’s passing down to them. Chris Christie, and now Rick Snyder, understand that by pointing to the waste and duplication at the local level, they can muddy the lines of accountability for budget cuts.
And of course, it should go without saying why liberals should be on board. It’s an opportunity to reduce racial and economic segregation, equalize school budgets within counties, and form a large tax base that allows local government to provide more and better public services. Larger governments with bigger tax bases have better bond ratings, so they’re able to borrow more and do more. People who want to see things like rail transit, for example, should be particularly interested in this.