New reports helping educate both lawmakers, public on fiscal issues

One of the biggest stories in the state of Michigan is how the state is dealing with its fiscal issues. While everyone focuses on the financial hardships in Detroit, there has been significant damage done to budgets throughout the state over the years, and nearly all cities are struggling to get back to a stable financial situation. I’m proud to say that Michigan State University Extension has been heavily involved in the discussions of this important issue, and we have played a leading role in educating both lawmakers and the public on the scope of the problem and on possible solutions.

A new Extension white paper, Funding the Legacy: The Cost of Municipal Workers’ Retirement Benefits to Michigan Communities, quantifies the retirement health care situation – a $12.7 billion unfunded liability for Michigan municipalities. The paper was written by MSU Extension specialists Dr. Eric Scorsone, an expert in municipal finance, and Nicolette Bateson, who has years of experience as a CPA for municipalities.

Dr. Scorsone recently testified about the report’s findings to the state House Committee on Financial Liability Reform in Lansing. Dr. Scorsone also recently served on the staff of the Lansing Financial Health Team and released a report on the city’s fiscal health and outlined recommendations the city could take to get its fiscal house in order.

Not only has he served an important advisory and educational role, Dr. Scorsone has also been a great representative of MSU Extension in serving as a key resource to media looking for experts to help explain the complicated fiscal situations in detail. Whether it has been retiree health care, emergency financial managers, municipal bankruptcy or other fiscal issues, Dr. Scorsone and MSU Extension are valued as key sources of information. That’s a pretty good bottom line for Michigan and for MSU.

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