Preschool-age boy practicing writing his name at a table in a Head Start classroom.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Update 2:17 p.m.

“The Superintendent is receiving calls from arts groups all over the state saying, ‘Why are you cutting the arts?’” says district spokesman Bob Kolt. “But it’s just not true…we’re contracting out those services to community artists.”

Kolt says the district will bring in about 10-20 “contractors” to help elementary classroom teachers with art, music and gym instruction.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

U.S. Supreme Court looks at affirmative action case in Michigan

"The U.S. Supreme Court will review Michigan’s ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is defending the amendment to the state constitution. It was adopted by voters in 2006," Rick Pluta reports.

Flint City Council takes steps to remove EM

"The Flint City Council is asking Governor Rick Snyder to remove the city’s emergency manager and phase out state control of its finances. The council unanimously approved a measure last night to request a state-appointed transition board to oversee the city’s finances," Jake Neher reports.

Lansing Mayor wants residents to pay more for utilities to help with city budget

"Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero wants to close the city’s looming budget deficit by asking city utility customers to pay another $46 a year. Bernero delivered his $112 million proposed budget to the city council last night," Steve Carmody reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor is proposing its municipal utility customers pay more to balance the city’s budget next year.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero outlined his budget plan to the city council last night.   Bernero says the city’s budget problems are not quite as serious as expected.    The mayor says better than expected property tax collections and lower than expected city employee health care costs had cut the project budget deficit in half.

Still, Bernero says the city needs to close about a five million dollar budget gap.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero will deliver his proposed city budget for the next year to the city council tomorrow. 

The mayor’s proposed budget is expected to deal with a projected nine million dollar budget shortfall.

A team appointed by Mayor Bernero suggested deep contract concessions by the city’s police and fire unions, among other cuts.

Tom Krug is the executive director with the local Fraternal Order of Police.

He says Lansing police officers have already agreed to more than a million dollars in contract concessions since 2009.

Kelley Cawthorne / Facebook

Hundreds of people came to the state Capitol today to voice their support for pro-gun legislation.

Many openly carried firearms, which is allowed in and around the Capitol building.

Jim Gulliksen is with the Michigan Militia Corps of Wolverines.

He says he’s happy that state lawmakers have taken up a number of pro-gun bills recently.

“Lansing has shown some trends lately to reduce some of the restrictions, as far as like the pistol purchase permit and some of the controls on where you can carry weapons. We do like to see that.”

There are several gun-related bills in the Michigan Legislature. Very few have moved out of committee so far this year.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says things like road funding and other budget issues are more pressing.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Universities might take cut after skirting around new right to work law

"Some Michigan universities could lose 15-percent of their state funding over new union contracts. A state budget panel Tuesday voted to sanction schools that approve long-term contracts before the state’s new right-to-work law takes effect. That’s unless the contracts include cost savings of at least 10 percent," Jake Neher reports.

Health care exchange deadline Friday

The state has until Friday to come up with a plan on how to shop for health insurance online as part of the Affordable Care Act. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"If the [health exchange bill] doesn't pass this week, it will end up solely in the federal government's hands. Gov. Rick Snyder has urged the Legislature to pass the health exchange bill as a way for the state to have input on how the exchange will run and which insurance companies appear on the exchange."

Govenor Snyder hopes Lansing will not need an EM

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to prevent the city of Lansing from getting an emergency manager. Lansing faces a projected $9 million budget shortfall next year. According to MLive, the governor talked about the future financial situation of the city at the Lansing Regional Camber of Commerce's legislative dinner last night,

“If the city of Lansing wants to be proactive and talk about a consent agreement, I want to be a good partner.”

A consent agreement is the intermediate step between emergency management of a troubled municipality’s finances and complete local control.

Michigan Radio/Steve Carmody

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero is reviewing a wide ranging report that calls for major changes to the way the city spends its money.

Lansing faces a projected nine million dollar budget shortfall next year.   Lansing city leaders have been struggling to pay for increasingly expensive city services with sharply declining tax revenues.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is considering spending nearly $40 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant.

On Monday, the Lansing city council will consider granting tax abatements to GM.

The abatements are tied to the automaker’s plan to spend $38 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant. The expansion would add about 150 jobs.

GM already makes its Cadillac ATS at the plant.   The ATS recently won the North American Car of the year award at the North American International Auto Show. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A mayor's task force is recommending major changes to help the city of Lansing fix its budget issues.

The committee says city leaders should consider selling city hall and privatizing many city services.  Another recommendation is to consolidate city departments with other local governments.

Former mayor David Hollister heads the mayor’s financial health team.  He says the proposals will be unpopular, but he believes they're necessary to end Lansing’s chronic budget problems.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Hundreds of Michigan cities are not saving enough to cover their future retiree health care costs.

A new report says more than 300 Michigan municipalities have in excess of $13 billion in unfunded liabilities for health care costs of retired public employees.

Michigan State University researchers found only half of the municipalities are prefunding retiree health care. The rest are setting aside no money despite longer lifespans and rapidly rising health costs.

While the collective bill of funding those benefits is $12.7 billion, the bulk of it, almost $11 billion, is attributable to local governments in a 10-county region of Southeast Michigan including Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. The city of Detroit alone will owe $5 billion in retiree health care costs.

But MSU professor Eric Scorsone says cities like Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Saginaw also face difficult choices.

“That’s already happening today….these cities…are paying millions of dollars in retiree premiums so it’s already having an effect and it will have an even bigger effect in the future,” says Scorsone.

Scorsone says the new national health care law may help some.   But tax increases, budget cuts or broken promises to retirees are inevitable, unless the state takes action.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Plans for a casino in downtown Lansing are in jeopardy this evening.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.  However, before the tribe could build the casino, the U.S. Department of the Interior would have to agree to take the land for the casino into trust.

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit trying to block the tribe's trust request.

A large crowd of dog owners packed a Lansing city council meeting on the city’s vicious dog ordinance.  The city council's public safety committee heard from about a dozen speakers during its hour long meeting.

Mayor Virg Bernero wants Lansing to adopt a new law that requires additional insurance and fencing requirements on the owners of specific breeds of dog, including pit bulls.

Beth Contreras is the vice president of Voiceless Michigan, an animal welfare group. She says the mayor’s proposal is the wrong approach.

Wikimedia Commons

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

The subject of minimum wage is on the front burner these days nationally, and in Lansing.

President Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

And now, there's a proposal afoot in Lansing to boost the state minimum wage to $10 an hour.

We had MPRN's Jake Neher and Michigan State University economics professor Charley Ballard tell us just what would the impact be on Michigan's economy, its businesses and its workers, if the minimum wage was boosted.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A former city-owned golf course will soon be for sale in Lansing.

Lansing closed the Waverly golf course in 2007.    Since then the grass has grown high on the fairways and putting greens.

Last year, Lansing voters gave their OK to sell the 120 acres.   Last night, the city council gave its approval to put the land on the market.

Randy Hannan is with the mayor’s office.  He says they’re optimistic the land will draw interest from developers since the real estate market is starting to rebound.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

“Painful” cuts to Lansing’s city budget are being predicted by the man heading a task force studying the capitol city’s budget problems.

David Hollister leads the mayor’s Financial Health team. He appeared before the Lansing City Council last night to update them on his committee’s work.

Hollister didn’t mince words telling the council that “painful” choices will have to be made to eliminate a projected nine million dollar budget shortfall next year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This week, Lansing will conduct its second gun buyback program in six months.

Violent crime declined in Lansing in 2012, according to the FBI.   But still the capital city recorded a dozen homicides last year.

The gun buyback taking place Saturday is intended to take a few weapons off the streets that might otherwise be used in violent crimes.

People who turn in firearms will receive gift cards worth between $50 to $150, depending on what kind of weapon is surrendered.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A special committee set up to study the city of Lansing’s financial problems heard from the public last night.

The committee’s preliminary report is due March 1st. The panel is looking at changes to Lansing’s retirement plan and other possible spending cuts.

Several dozen people showed up last night to share their ideas. UAW vice president Stan Shuck doesn’t want any more cuts to city employees and city services.  He wants to see ideas for raising revenue.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero’s State of the City address celebrated recent positive economic news for the capitol city.

But perhaps the biggest applause line in the speech last night involved the future of Lansing’s city-owned utility.

Last year, Mayor Virg Bernero appointed a committee to study ways of solving Lansing’s chronic budget problems.   One option the panel has been looking at is privatizing the Lansing Board of Water and Light.

But Bernero says he wants that idea off the table.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor plans to celebrate the city’s recent growth in manufacturing in his State of the City address tonight night.   

But the city’s lingering financial problems will also be on the agenda.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero has used his previous seven State of the City addresses to highlight positive economic news in the capitol city. He’ll do the same thing this year.

Bernero says he plans to talk about expanding auto production in the Lansing area as well as mention other downtown development projects.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Grand Rapids will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that may determine if Lansing will get a downtown casino.

A year ago, the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced plans to build a casino that would wrap around Lansing’s downtown convention center.   The plan included the construction of a temporary casino along Michigan Ave.  

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Government and religious leaders from Lansing, Flint and Saginaw came together today to call for new federal gun control laws.

All three cities saw an increase in murders in 2012.

The group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, wants the federal government to require background checks for all gun sales.    It also wants a ban on assault weapons and an expansion of gun trafficking laws.

Darnell Earley is Saginaw’s city manager.   He says something must be done to stop what he calls “neighborhood warfare.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Low income families in Lansing will soon have access to a special financial counseling program.

The city is getting a $1.5 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Living Cities-Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to underwrite the three year program.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council chose a longtime critic of the capitol city’s mayor as its next leader.

Carol Wood was selected as the city council’s new president at a meeting today.

Wood has frequently criticized the way Mayor Virg Bernero has run Lansing’s city government, both as a councilwoman and when she ran against him in 2009’s mayoral election.

Wood says she wants to “start on the right foot” with the mayor this year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing City Council received a report last night looking at serious problems with Ingham County’s 911 system.

The new 911 center opened last summer. It dispatches fire and EMS crews for Lansing and East Lansing, as well as Ingham County.

But the system has trouble pinpointing mobile phone calls, and that’s led to dispatching mistakes and slow response times. A new report suggests three deaths may be connected to problems with the 911 system.

Over the past decade, the number of Michigan state government workers has shrunk, and that's left some state-owned buildings with lots of vacant space.

Now the state is hoping to fill in those gaps and save money at the same time.

The idea is to move some workers from leased offices across Lansing into Constitution Hall and the Mason Building.  Both of those state-owned buildings will undergo renovations to prepare the new workspace.

Kurt Weiss is with the state. He says Constitution Hall is 30 percent vacant.

"So as you can imagine, as you're walking down some of those hallways, there's a lot of empty cubicles," he said. / MNA Facebook page

With Michigan poised to become the country’s 24th so-called "right-to-work" state, thousands of protestors have flooded the State Capital today to demonstrate against the legislation. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Katie Oppenheim, a registered nurse, and president of the University of Michigan Nurses Union. Oppenheim is also affiliated with the Michigan Nurses Association.

Stateside: The politics behind right-to-work

Dec 6, 2012
user "Dmitri" Beljan / Flickr

Governor Snyder announced today that right-to-work bills will be placed in the state’s Legislature.

This means that union membership would be voluntary in Michigan.

"Stateside with Cynthia Canty" Executive Producer Zoe Clark and MPRN’s Rick Pluta discussed the politics behind this issue.

Here is what they had to say:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing voters will decide next week if they are willing to put 48 acres of an old city golf course up for sale.

Voters approved selling 12 acres of the Red Cedar golf course last year.  But developers say they need the rest of the park to attract major retailers and other investment.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is optimistic that city voters will approve selling the other 48 acres. He expects investment will come quickly, if the land is allowed to be put up for sale.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing airport officials say a new expansion will help spur international business in mid-Michigan.

Capitol Region Airport officials officially opened their new “Port Lansing” foreign trade zone today. Goods that come into the trade zone are exempt from customs tariffs and merchandise that's shipped from the zones is exempt from duty payments.

Robert Selig is the president of the Capitol Region Airport Authority. He says the foreign trade zone designation will give mid-Michigan businesses a chance to get involved in international trade.

Lansing city hall.
MI SHPO / flickr

The city of Lansing faces an $11 million budget deficit in the coming fiscal year.

City officials say the shortfall is due largely to a steep decline in property tax revenues. Rising pension, health care, and salaries are also to blame. The numbers take into account the extra money the city is taking in from a new tax levy voters approved a year ago, but the city has almost reached its constitutional limit on how much money it can raise in new taxes.  In a press release, Mayor Virg Bernero says the funding model for Michigan cities is "broken."