Michigan Lawmakers Approve 'Grand Bargain'

 Michigan lawmakers have given their approval to the bankruptcy exit plan negotiated by federal mediators that has come to be known as the "grand bargain." The nine-bill package, passed with bipartisan support in both chambers and expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R), calls for the transfer of $194.8 million from the state's rainy day fund to Detroit's pensioners and provides for long-term oversight of the city's finances by a new state commission. And thanks to $466 million pledged by private benefactors, the deal also ensures that the Detroit Institute of Arts' 60,000-piece collection remains intact. 
 
"It makes pensioners as whole as possible and protects the Detroit Institute of Arts from having its artwork seized and sold off," said state Sen. Tupac Hunter (D). 
 
The "grand bargain" still has to be approved by a majority of Detroit's pensioners, most of whom would have their monthly pension checks cut 4.5 percent under the deal. If they vote the plan down, however, they could face a cut of 27 percent or more. And a federal bankruptcy court judge has already ruled the city's pensions can be cut. 
 
"There's really no value for someone to vote no," Gov. Snyder said at a press conference. "They're putting themselves at risk." 
 
But one of the state's senators, Coleman Young II (D) of Detroit, found a reason to vote "no" on all nine of the "grand bargain" bills. He said the plan's oversight commission, for instance, would legalize "inter-state colonialism" in the predominately African-American city he represents. 
 
"It simply won't do for my city, my friends, my neighbors, my constituents who will be put under the thumb of another body hand-picked by this administration to enact policies in their own best interests, not Detroit's," he said. 
 
Sen. Pat Colbeck (R), one of 17 senators who opposed the pension aid bill, contended that it sets a bad precedent for the next Michigan city that gets into fiscal trouble. 
 
"We need to tighten our state spending, not break open the piggy bank," he said. 
 
Annie Patnaude, deputy director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, who testified against the bills, also found fault with the notion that the city's art and other assets shouldn't be sold off to repay its pensioners and creditors. 
 
"What's more important: A painting on the wall or someone's pension?" she said. "Detroit needs to give up some of its assets." 
 
But Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R) said simply, "This was, in my mind, a very responsible vote." (DETROIT NEWS, MLIVE.COM, STATE NET) 

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