Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget cuts affected local law enforcement, and Hillsdale County Sheriff Timothy Parker and Michigan Republicans are contesting Whitmer’s vetos.
According to Rep. Eric Leutheuser, Whitmer’s 147 line-item vetos shocked both parties of the Michigan legislature as they fell “disproportionately on rural areas.”
Parker said the immediate effect of Whitmer’s vetos on Hillsdale County is the removal of funding for one of its Secondary Road Patrol deputies.
Whitmer’s veto removed the state-wide funding of the SRP from issued traffic tickets. Every $10 from an issued-ticket goes to a fund which the Michigan State Police divides among all counties across Michigan.
The budget cut will affect county sheriffs all across the state of Michigan. In Hillsdale County, the funds provided for the salary of one SRP deputy.
Leutheuser said the SRP fund is essential for rural areas like Hillsdale because many of those areas have no other law enforcement.
“This is something that has always been in the budget for as long as I’ve been here,” Leutheuser said.
“It’s the only law enforcement that a lot of these rural areas have. The city police don’t go out there and neither does the state police. There is no question that some of the essential services all across the state are in jeopardy because of local revenue being tight.”
Leutheuser added that road patrol is a big concern in Hillsdale and Branch and in a number of other places.
Hillsdale City Police Chief Scott Hepher said the funding for law enforcement has repeatedly been cut since about 2005. Smaller cities such as Jonesville, Reading, Somerset, and Litchfield already lack a full-time police force, and some towns do not have any law enforcement.
Because the county and city law-enforcement already have to back up each other and the other areas, Hephner said, the cut to SRP funding could have a “trickle down effect” on the Hillsdale City Police.
“There are too few police officers in the area already, so anything that takes away from law enforcement is bad,” Hephner said. “If there’s a critical accident, we all assist each other. If there was nobody to help anybody that would absolutely hurt.”
According to Parker, the county commissioners have instructed him to continue as they always have for now.
“We have not laid anyone off yet,” Parker said. “We’re waiting and seeing what’s happening. The commissioners are still giving me the authority to continue as if we’re being funded.”
The Republicans in both the House of Representative and Senate have introduced legislation to restore most of Whitmer’s vetos. Whitmer has also submitted her own version of revisions.
“We’ve introduced these supplementals that would restore the funding for the SRP and other things so that we can instate them if the governor does not,” Leutheuser said. “We introduced the first 20 veto-overrides, which are those that could do the most harm if they’re allowed to stand.”
As of Oct. 21, the legislature had not yet had hearings on the revisions. Leutheuser said this is because the leadership and minority are debating on whether they want to conduct the hearings now or wait and see if the governor “wants to make more broad solutions.”
Although the Michigan SRP currently has no money for Fiscal Year 2019 – 2020, the legislators have told Parker that it will be corrected.
“My latest communication from Senator Shirkey is that he believes it will be corrected and will be retroactive,” Parker said on Oct. 17. “I’m trusting that the legislature is going to do the right thing. So let’s stand by and see what happens with the senate and the governor.”