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Newly-elected Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) inherited a mighty fiscal mess when he took office. Not only were the state’s finances in disrepair, “hundreds” of municipalities in Michigan were staring down the barrel of bankruptcy.
To deal with these problems, Gov. Snyder quickly passed legislation that enabled the creation of Financial SWAT teams that could be dispatched quickly to help cities and towns get their fiscal houses in order.
Training of those Financial Swat teams began in East Lansing today. Bloomberg reports:
Michigan is giving hundreds of financial professionals and public employees a crash course in advising troubled municipalities, building an army of emergency managers that may become a model for other U.S. states.
As many as 400 accountants, lawyers, school employees and city workers will start classes in Lansing today on topics including “Dealing with the Unionized Workforce,” navigating municipal bankruptcy and negotiating contracts for sewer, water and other utilities. It’s a “rare” example of preparing people in advance for potential fiscal difficulties, said Michael Imber, a principal in Grant Thornton LLP’s corporate advisory and restructuring services group.
“Management is usually in denial and waits until it’s too late before they reach out, and here was a state saying, ‘We need help,'” Imber said. He is on the international executive board of the Turnaround Management Association and was among about 50 initial graduates of Michigan’s February course. “It enables qualified professionals to walk around cities and towns in Michigan and say, ‘How can I help?'”
Not everyone is enamoured of Mr. Snyder’s aggressive response to Michigan’s municipal debt crisis. Earlier this week, the city of Detroit’s two major pension systems sued the governor and the state treasurer in Federal court, saying that the enabling legislation was (and is) unconstitutional.
In the meantime, the training continues.