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Bing outlines dire financial picture for Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city is on the verge of a financial calamity. But he insists that with tough choices all around, it can still avoid a state takeover.

Bing’s televised speech on city finances Wednesday night had a blunt message: “Simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken.”

To avoid running out of money by spring, Bing says the city needs to do a whole range of things almost at once.

They include increased health care and pension contributions for everyone, including retirees; and 10-percent wage cuts rather than furlough days for current employees.

Bing says that needs to include the city’s public safety officers. Those departments eat up about 60% of Detroit’s budget.

He adds the city  needs to privatize some services—including public lighting, and to some extent its dysfunctional bus system.

Bing also wants the state to rectify what he calls “One of the historic wrongs that contributed to the state’s financial crisis.”

That’s money the state promised Detroit in return for lowering income taxes—but never paid.

“That loss of more than $220 million million in revenue is enough to eliminate Detroit’s current structural deficit and compensate for this fiscal year’s $45 million shortfall. I am requesting the return of those funds to the City of Detroit.”

Many think it’s only a matter of time before Detroit gets an emergency manager—and some, including Detroit City Council members, think the lack of specifics and deadlines in Bing’s speech made that even more likely.

Governor Snyder also issued a statement immediately afterward that read, in part: “Based on the mayor's remarks tonight and the severity of the situation he described, we anticipate he will be submitting a request for a preliminary financial review in the near future."

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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