Detroit mayor says Michigan shares blame for city's fiscal woes

DETROIT Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:16pm EST

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DETROIT Feb 13 (Reuters) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing on Wednesday argued against a takeover of the financially strapped city by the state, saying the Michigan government bears some responsibility for Detroit's fiscal problems.

With the prospect that the appointment of an emergency financial manager for the city could come soon, the mayor in his state of the city address tried to turn the table on the Michigan government.

"The total amount of cutbacks in state revenue sharing to Detroit over the past 11 years is more than $700 million. Detroit's current general fund deficit is $327 million," Bing said.

"So, it is clear that if Detroit had received its agreed upon share of revenues from the state, our financial picture would not be as grim today," he added. Bing made the remarks in his annual state of the city speech, held at the Detroit School of Arts in the Midtown neighborhood before about 250 people.

Governor Rick Snyder appointed a team in December to examine Detroit's finances and determine if it needs a state-appointed manager, who could ultimately opt for bankruptcy for the city unless the state blocks the move.

Bing and the city council have been working to cut expenses and restructure the government to head off a state takeover or what would be the biggest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy filing ever in the United States.

In his speech, the mayor said he has made difficult and unpopular decisions including job cuts and the privatization of some city services.

"Beginning tonight, it is time to change the conversation about Detroit. It is time to focus on the many positive changes taking place." he said.

Under a consent agreement Detroit struck with the state last April, the city has made "significant progress" in some of the 25 reform initiatives that were identified to address chronic problems, Bing said.

The mayor also hailed new state laws that created a regional mass transportation authority for the Detroit area and a lighting authority that will finance improvements to the city's outdated street lighting system.

Detroit, which is checkered with abandoned and dilapidated buildings, is working through a public-private partnership spearheaded by Bill Pulte of Pulte Homes to tear down eyesore buildings, Bing announced.

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