Despite mutual dislike, Michigan may need Detroit

Tue Jul 23, 2013 3:39pm EDT
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By Nick Carey

DETROIT (Reuters) - Defending his decision to approve America's largest ever bankruptcy filing in Detroit last week, Rick Snyder returned to a point that he has been hitting on since his successful run for governor in 2010: for Michigan to thrive, Detroit must prosper.

"We're the comeback state in Michigan, but to be a great state we need...Detroit on the path to being a great city again," the Republican governor said at a press conference on Friday.

Snyder is one of a growing number of voices arguing that strong economic growth for the only U.S. state to lose population in the past decade cannot come from Detroit's thriving suburbs or smaller prosperous cities, and that the state has an interest in helping Detroit recover.

"There's no such thing as a growing regional economy that is not anchored by a growing, vibrant urban core," said Sandy Baruah, head of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

But when it comes to shelling out money to help, Snyder faces a tough sell with Republicans who feel the city has received too much statewide largesse already. The governor has ruled out a state bailout to cover the city's $18.5 billion in long-term debt but has said repeatedly he wants to help the city. In June Snyder announced a $100 million blight removal program using federal dollars that would benefit Detroit and four other cities in Michigan.

Conservatives say they are fed up with footing the bill for Detroit's mistakes and Detroit, a historically Democratic stronghold, should fix itself by cutting taxes and encouraging business.

"Snyder has won no friends on the left and his own political base thinks he's throwing good money after bad in Detroit," said Bill Ballenger, a longtime pundit and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. "He's losing support in his own party."

URBAN CORE   Continued...

Downtown Detroit, including the General Motors World Headquarters (2nd L), is pictured from a vacant lot along Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan in this July 21, 2013, file photo. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files