State News Roundup

News Roundup | June 14, 2012

In North Dakota yesterday voters rejected a constitutional amendment to abolish the property tax. Advocates for the abolishment of the tax had argued that the it has proved inconsistent in terms of revenue and conflicted with basic property ownership rights. Meanwhile, a coalition of local business leaders and public workers strongly opposed theamendment. By appealing to the idea that a loss in revenue from the tax would result in financial difficulties in the capital city of Bismarck, an increase in other taxes, and an end to most decision-making by local city councils won the populace’s opinion in the end. The vote, however, has not gone unnoticed in the capital and state lawmakers have begun to examine changes to the tax in the come year.

Detroit is facing serious problems with its financial stability, prompting Mayor Dave Bing to comment, “It’s a timing issue from a cash standpoint. Without that, we’re dead.” In an effort to keep Detroit from falling into a perilous financial situation, Bing urged city council members to not let a legal challenge to the city’s consent agreement play out in court, should a lawsuit from the city’s top lawyer move forward. Krystal Crittendon, the lawyer overseeing the suit, filed against the state on behalf of Detroit, alleging that Michigan owed the city money in tax revenue, which prompted the state to threaten to withdraw $80 million in interim financing if the suit isn’t withdrawn. The lawsuit is now being heard in the Ingham County Circuit Court, and its ruling will decide the fate of $220 million in revenue from state tax-sharing programs, but the time it may take to decide the case could result in Detroit’s bankruptcy before a decision is reached. Find more on the situation in Detroit by reading our blog post on Detroit’s fiscal crash here.

Lastly, in Nevada more than 400 teachers received pink slips from the Clark County School District this week after eliminating more than 1,000 teaching positions in the next year to balance its budget. The school district’s budget totaled $2.06 billion but required the district to cut at least 1,015 jobs in order to bridge a $64 million deficit. In a prepared statement, Superintendent Dwight Jones said, “We remain firm in our position that keeping teachers in classrooms is what’s best for our student and community.” But, the local teachers union was not satisfied and led a rally of more than 100 local teachers in front of the district’s administration building. While the layoffs were not in any specific area of the district’s curriculum, they were determined by seniority, despite a recently passed law that should have ended the “last in, first out” policy. In all, only 38 of the 419 teachers that were laid off were let go based on poor performance reports, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

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