Editorial

Dems didn’t start the fire on federal revenue sharing

So municipalities in Allegan County soon will be getting a total of $22.9 million in the federal stimulus package, or American Rescue Plan signed into law last month by President Joe Biden.

Steve Shoemaker of Leighton Township certainly offered an interesting take on the news of the windfall when he took to task the Republican Party and the Leighton Township Board for opposing it.

Though the chances of the township turning down $589,000 are about even with the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl, the greater question now is whether Leighton and all other township and cities in the county will ask their constituents how the money should be spent.

I hereby urge all of them to schedule public hearings on that very question. Dorr Township is getting the most money, at almost $780,000. Leighton’s total is the third highest, City of Wayland will get $417,000 and Wayland Township $339,000.

The federal government earlier this year proposed to offer money to local governments to help them with the financial hardships they’ve suffered as a result of the Covid-19 viral pandemic. Shoemaker pointed out that not one Republican U.S. Senator voted for the stimulus package and it was passed almost exclusively by a Democratic House and Senate and signed by a Democratic President.

Leighton Township Supervisor Steve Wolbrink acknowledged he is a Republican and holds the GOP policy of he who governs least governs best.

Yet there is precedent for this stimulus plan, and its roots are with a Republican, Richard Nixon.

For those who may have forgotten and didn’t learn it in history, Nixon in the fall of 1972 laid out his “New Federalism” approach, in which the federal government would share its revenue with local government because the latter had a better handle on how to spend money on its needs.

Thus began the federal revenue sharing program under the stewardship of a Republican president.

I remember clearly in my earliest days of covering municipal meetings the Wayland City Council conducting a public hearing on how to spend the latest federal revenue sharing check.

To be sure, very few citizens showed up to express their opinions, but at least they were given the opportunity to make an important decision. Regardless of the size of the crowd, a decision on local spending of federal dollars was made. The usual beneficiaries were the fire department and roads.

Somehow the recent stimulus has been characterized as a big spending project of Democrats, but the truth is that the GOP played a major role in its origins.

The federal revenue sharing program was shelved in 1986, during the Reagan years, after 14 years of operation. It was replaced by state revenue sharing, which remains today as the largest source of revenue for townships, villages, cities and schools.

 

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