Townsend Joins Bipartisan, Tri-County Effort to Protect DIA, Zoo Millages

Legislation prevents diversion of voter-approved millages to other purposes
Thursday, March 14, 2013

LANSING — Democrats and Republicans from Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties joined together to introduce a package of legislation aimed at protecting the voter-approved millages for the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Arts. The legislation would prevent cities from redirecting revenue raised to support the zoo and the DIA for unrelated local purposes. A total of $756,000 has been diverted thus far.

“When the issue came to light, we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to voters that their vote should not be ignored or circumvented,” said State Rep. Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak). “By creating a coalition from both parties and all counties that passed these millages, we have demonstrated true good governance. I’m honored to be able to work for two of our region’s cultural touchstones.”

The laws in question are part of the Tax Increment Finance Authority Act, passed in 1980 as a way to foster economic revitalization in urban areas and increase neighborhood reinvestment. They have been largely successful under their more popular form: the Downtown Development Authority, or DDA.

“The bills we have introduced clarify and ensure that the voters’ intention to provide for these cultural icons is protected,” said Townsend. “While I do understand the plight of our local municipalities and their incredible budget constraints — particularly as the state continues to decrease revenue sharing and property values have reached historical lows — taking from a dedicated millage is not the way to solve the problem.”

Other Representatives who are a part of the coalition include: Reps. Phil Cavanagh (D-Redford), Harold Haugh (D-Roseville), Gail Haines (R-Waterford), Jeff Farrington (R-Utica), Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake) and Speaker Pro Tempore John Walsh (R-Livonia).