Local leaders more optimistic about state's direction

Posted on July 25, 2012

Michigan’s local government leaders feel more positive about the direction the state is headed and Gov. Rick Snyder than they did a year ago, according to a survey set for release Wednesday.

But there’s plenty of room for improvement, based on the survey from The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The survey conducted this spring found 50 percent of responding local government officials said the state is headed in the right direction. That’s an improvement from 32 percent at the same time last year.

About 35 percent of local leaders said the state is on the wrong track in this year’s survey, down from 50 percent in 2011. The rest fell into the “don’t know” category.

“There’s a ways to go before there is widespread satisfaction,” said Tom Ivacko, program manager for the survey.

The report said 49 percent of local officials rated Snyder’s performance as good or excellent in this spring’s survey. That compares to 37 percent who thought the Republican governor was doing a good or excellent job during the same period of 2011.

About 19 percent of local leaders said Snyder is doing a poor job in this year’s survey, while the rest gave him a “fair” rating or said they didn’t know.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor “can’t and won’t pay attention to polls.” But Wurfel said sound policies and decision-making will help turn around Michigan’s economy.

“Some key, positive things are happening,” Wurfel said. “Hopefully, Michiganders are seeing and witnessing that firsthand. That’s what matters. “

This spring’s survey was conducted April 9 through June 18 and includes responses from 1,329 jurisdictions across the state. Respondents include county administrators, city mayors and managers, clerks, village presidents, township supervisors and others.

The lowest rankings in the survey are reserved for the Republican-led Michigan Legislature. Just 27 percent of the local-level officials who responded to the survey rated the Legislature’s performance as either good or excellent, while 33 percent rated the performance as poor.

In 2011, about 21 percent of local officials gave the Legislature positive ratings while 36 percent said its performance was poor.

Officials who identified themselves as Republicans were more likely to say Michigan was headed in the right direction than Democrats or independents. But officials from all three groups had higher optimism levels than a year ago, according to the survey.

One of the issues that might play a significant role in the attitudes of local leaders is the relatively early adoption of state government budgets the past two years. The report indicates that likely has made it easier for local officials to plan their own budgets.

An improvement in the state’s unemployment rate, at least compared to a year ago, may also have boosted approval ratings.

But many issues in the state still have local leaders worried – such as the future of the state’s personal property tax paid by some businesses. It’s an important revenue stream for some local governments.

The University of Michigan says the margin of error for the survey as a whole is plus or minus 1.43 percentage points.

By: Tim Martin, MLive