Michigan’s Urban Cooperation Act of 1967 allows two or
more units of government to create so-called “Interlocal Agreements,” where
local governmental entities can join forces to provide services like public
safety, transportation and water usage without having to jump through big
bureaucratic hoops or bog down the Legislature for approval. There are, to
date, 999 ILAs on file with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office. A
Mackinac Center review of these ILAs found several eyebrow-raising trends
beyond the sheer growth in number of these agreements, including disturbing
ways ILAs have recently been used.
An interlocal agreement was used to force home-based day care owners and providers into a public-sector union and divert millions of dollars in “dues” to unions.
There were just three interlocal agreements signed prior
to 1970, and 37 by 1979. Another 108 were created in the 1980s and 121 during
the 1990s. From 2000 to present, some 727 ILAs have been signed, including 91
so far in 2011. The rate of increase may be due in part to the fact that ILAs
are no longer used for the sole purpose of facilitating so-called “core
functions” of government.
For example, 58 ILAs involve the Michigan Economic
Development Corp., which itself is a product of an interlocal agreement between
the Michigan Strategic Fund and “participating public agencies” such as local
economic development organizations.
ILAs have also been twisted in such
devious ways that private residents were forced into government unions without
either their knowledge or approval — and without approval from the Legislature.
The Michigan Constitution specifies that only the Legislature can designate
The Michigan Quality Community Care
Council is the product of an interlocal agreement between the Michigan
Department of Community Health and the Tri-County Aging Consortium. Created in
2004, the MQCCC touts on its website that it “offers a tool for finding,
choosing, and hiring a provider.” What’s not mentioned is that the MQCCC also
provided a so-called public “employer” for the Service Employees International
Union to organize against and create the 55,000-member SEIU Healthcare
Michigan. The SEIU takes union dues from the Medicaid subsidies paid to home
care workers (as well as registered nurses, nursing home aides and hospital
support staff), collecting as much as $6 million a year.
The Michigan Home-Based Child Care Council was another
such interlocal agreement, formed by the Michigan Department of Human Services
and Mott Community College. Its purported reason for existing was “to improve
the quality of home-based child care in Michigan.” Like the MQCCC, the MHBCCC
provided an “employer” for another 40,000 business owners and independent
contractors who became members of the government employee union called Child
Care Providers Together Michigan, a joint effort by the United Auto Workers and
the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Union dues
were skimmed from subsidy checks sent to day care providers on behalf of
low-income parents who sought child care while working or attending school.
This arrangement netted the union more than $4 million from Jan. 1, 2009 to
Sept. 30, 2010.
Fortunately, due to the Mackinac Center Legal
Foundation’s lawsuit against the DHS over the illegal withholding of those
dues, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder effectively ordered the dissolution of the
MHBCCC interlocal agreement.
So make that ILA total 998. And that could drop to 997.
According to a March 7, 2011, MIRS article, Gov. Snyder plans to disband the
Interlocal agreements could also receive some
legislative attention. Michigan Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, last year
recognized that ILAs could be misused. He told the Mackinac Center that he
was troubled by a “few very egregious, over-the-top examples of how interlocal
agreements have abused what are, in essence, a really good idea.”
As a member of the Michigan House in 2010, Proos
introduced House Resolution 270, which would have urged the Michigan Attorney
General to take steps to beef up scrutiny of interlocal governmental
agreements. The bill would also require any ILAs in the state to have biennial
audits conducted by the Auditor General and be reauthorized by the governor.
There may be hundreds of examples
of ILAs serving the people and doing what the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967
intended. But there are tens of thousands of reasons why the residents of
Michigan should be on high alert when new ILAs do more than the basic functions
of government without legislative scrutiny or voter accountability.
Hoekstra is a communications specialist at the Mackinac Center for Public
Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland,
Mich. Permission to reprint in
whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are