Bills would give Michigan sheriffs $15M from liquor tax for rural road patrols

LANSING, MI – Michigan’s county sheriffs would have more stable and permanent funding to support road patrols in rural Michigan communities under a package of bills that passed in the House of Representatives this week.

House Bills 5732, 5772 and 5773 would take $15 million of the liquor excise taxes collected by the state each year and allocate that funding to the state’s secondary road patrol program, which provides funds for sheriffs’ deputies to patrol roads outside of cities and villages.

The bills all passed in the House Wednesday, April 13. They were sponsored by state Reps. Mike Mueller, R-Linden, David Martin, R-Davison, and Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming.

The legislation would take $15 million from the total annual revenue collected from the state’s 4% liquor excise tax, and allocate it to local sheriff’s departments for road patrols in rural areas. Currently, all revenue collected through the 4% tax accrues to the state general fund, according to House Fiscal Agency analysis of the bill.

The bill package would not increase the tax on consumers in any way, lawmakers said.

Lawmakers say the current funding formula for the state’s secondary road patrol program is too volatile.

Currently, the program is funded through the state’s Justice System Fund, which collects money from court penalties like fines and traffic tickets. The secondary road patrol program receives $10 per paid traffic civil infraction, under the Michigan Vehicle Code.

The current funding formula means the program’s revenue is entirely reliant upon the number of traffic tickets written.

“Relying on revenue from traffic tickets to fund a police program not only creates a bad public perception – it’s simply not working,” Martin said in a prepared statement. “We’re solving the problem by establishing reliable funding from liquor tax revenue, which increased during the pandemic.”

Funding for the secondary road patrol program has declined over the last five years, from $8.9 million in 2018 to $6.2 million in 2021. In recent years, the state has had to step in to allocate money from the general fund to support the program.

“Every year, the Legislature must have a conversation about how much, if any, general fund money will be allocated to secondary road patrols,” said Mueller, a retired sheriff’s deputy, in a GOP statement.

“Meanwhile, residents face uncertainty every year about whether their neighborhood will continue to have adequate police coverage. And patrol officers are left in limbo, worrying about the status of their job while the Legislature crafts its budget.”

Brann said the bill package would provide stable revenue for local sheriffs’ departments, which could be used to employ personnel, purchase equipment, conduct law enforcement in state and county parks and more.

“This is going to be guaranteed (funding),” he said. “Seventy-five percent of accidents happen on secondary roads. This is pro-police, pro-funding, and it protects lives. It’s a great bill.”

Matthew M. Saxton, CEO and executive director of the Michigan’s Sheriff’s Association, called the bill package a “commonsense solution to a long-standing funding concern.”

“The package of bills provides sheriffs and counties certainty of funding, stability of staffing and safety for the citizens of Michigan,” Saxton said in a prepared statement.

The bill package advanced to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

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