News Story

Get ready to pay Highland Park’s water bill

Senate Democrats advance plan to give Detroit suburb $20M state bailout

Michigan taxpayers would pay Highland Park’s water bills — $20.3 million worth — under a budget proposal advanced last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

As The Detroit News reported:

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a $35.4 billion budget for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that includes $20.3 million for Highland Park to use to repay the estimated $24 million with interest it owes the Great Lakes Water Authority for years of unpaid drinking water bills.

For years, Highland Park argued that a Wayne County Circuit Court ruling had invalidated the water debt. Since then the debt has been upheld as valid. Highland Park has raised the specter of bankruptcy; its city council voted to ask Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for an expedited bankruptcy.

Highland Park officials have until May 31 to come back with a plan to pay the $24 million, The News reported.

In the eyes of Great Lakes Water Authority, a debt owed by any member is paid by the collective. But communities grew tired of that arrangement. Last year commmunities in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties announced their intent to withhold the portion of their water bills that were earmarked for paying down Highland Park’s debt.

Since then, Whitmer has suggested that the water authority use its $25 million appropriation from federal stimulus funds to cover the debt “without transferring the burden to homeowners or businesses.”

Using federal funds, of course, would mean that federal taxpayers had paid the debt.

The Senate plan would transfer about 85% of Highland Park’s water debt to Michigan homeowners and businesses.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.