LANSING — Local governments are hurting because Gov. Rick Snyder fails to understand that harm he caused by lowering revenue sharing payments to communities, state Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) said Tuesday night after the annual State of the State address. Dianda, who attended the State of the State address with special guest Hancock City Manager Glenn Anderson, said Michiganders are struggling because of the decisions and priorities of Gov. Snyder and the Republican Legislature.

“My Upper Peninsula local governments have less money to provide police and fire services, and necessities such as trash removal because, under Gov. Snyder, the state has been underfunding statutory revenue sharing payments,” said Dianda. “Since 2001, revenue sharing payments have been underfunded by about $7billion. Combine that with the lost property tax revenues because of the dark store problem, and we’ve got a perfect storm making life difficult for U.P residents and businesses that rely on local government services.”

Dianda said that legislation he sponsored, and a Republican-sponsored bill that passed the House last session, would have addressed the dark store problem had they made it to the governor’s desk. The practice of lowering assessments based on comparing the value to closed, vacant stores — known as the “dark store” method — has been exceptionally hard on Upper Peninsula communities where lower tax collections hit police, fire, ambulance and library services. Corporations also often add deed restrictions against selling that property to another retailer. Because of this, corporations have argued successfully to the Michigan Tax Tribunal that the “highest and best use” of a comparable property is for something far less valuable than the thriving retail property being assessed. If the tribunal agrees, and it has been agreeing, then the big-box store ends up paying less in property tax to the local unit of government.

“My constituents expect me to go to Lansing, get to work for them and get things done so they can live comfortably, work a good job, and see their kids be able to stay in the U.P to live, work and raise their families,” said Dianda. “So I hope that this year we can focus on doing a better job of working with and supporting our local governments by solving the dark store problem, and funding revenue sharing as it should be funded so they can provide the services their residents and businesses need.”