LANSING – This week, House Democratic Whip and State Representative Robert Kosowski (D-Westland) introduced legislation aimed at increasing funding to counties and local municipalities through the statutory state shared revenue formula.
“Over the past 12 fiscal years, cuts to statutory revenue sharing have left cities and counties with a $6.2 billion revenue sharing reduction,” Kosowski said. “This has to stop. When this formula is underfunded, Michigan’s entire economy and its residents end up suffering: there are fewer police officers and firefighters on our streets, street and sidewalk repairs are postponed, and recreation and library programs are reduced or completely eliminated.”
Kosowski said that one of the first things people ask him when talking about raising funding to municipalities is where the money is going to come from. “I wanted to start thinking outside of the box,” Kosowski said. “Of course, the first thing people assume is that we are going to raise taxes. However, I have another solution to raise the extra money needed to ensure our local communities are fully funded. It’s a simple answer, and it is actually already happening in other states – the legalization of sports betting in the state of Michigan. Why would we continue to further tax our residents, when this solution is literally right in front of us?”
Currently, Kosowski has two bills introduced that deal with sports gambling and simulcast horse racing. House Bills 4669 and 4670 would both amend the Michigan Gaming and Control Act and allow casinos to accept wagers on sporting events and simulcast horse races. It is his intent to amend the two bills, and not only allow a percentage of the money generated from Michigan’s casinos to fund the increase in state shared revenues, but to continue funding the School Aid Fund as in current statute. These bills would work in tandem with the recently introduced bill – House Bill 5719 – which is the mechanism by which the local municipalities would qualify for the extra funding.
“House Bills 4669 and 4670 were given a committee hearing last October,” Kosowski said. “In committee, both the CEO and Head of Business Development from William Hill US testified. William Hill US is the leading sports betting company in the world. The representatives estimated that, based on models they have in Nevada, if Michigan were to legalize sports betting it could generate a total sports betting handle of at least $5 billion dollars. This translates to approximately $300 million dollars in revenue annually. That’s at least $300 million per year that could go back into both our schools and our local municipalities for more programs and services.”
Kosowski is hopeful that all three bills will gain bi-partisan support and make their way swiftly through the legislative process. “The bottom line is this: through the years, our cities and counties have taken a devastating hit on property tax cuts and revenue sharing shifts,” Kosowski said. “Our local municipalities are not being adequately funded, and we need to figure out a way to get them the money that they have been owed the past 12 years. Why is it that a person can play the lottery legally in Michigan, yet betting on sports is illegal? People play the 3 or 4 digit lottery games every day, yet they cannot bet on their favorite sports team. And now, we are even making it even easier by allowing people to play the lottery online. Both House Bills 4669 and 4670 provide the answer that we are looking for. It is a way to adequately fund local communities without raising taxes.”