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Political roundup: State drops unemployment fraud charges; Snyder task force on retiree benefits

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
In February, Gov. Rick Snyder formed a 23-person task force to recommend solutions for local municipalities' multi-billion dollar funding shortage of health care plans and pensions of retirees.


This week, the state of Michigan dropped charges and arrest warrants against 186 people — almost all of them Detroit residents — after accusing them of illegally collecting unemployment benefits. This group is among about 28,000 people the state wrongly accused of unemployment benefit fraud due to serious flaws in its automated fraud detection system.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislative leader, and Vicki Barnett, a former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside to discuss this week's political news.

"This is just a terrible story. People’s lives were turned upside down when they most needed help,” Barnett said. “It’s about time that the state starts to drop the charges. I’m surprised it took this long."

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that a class-action lawsuit seeking damages from the state on behalf of those wrongly accused was filed too late.

“This is a situation where the state, prevailing on a technicality, feels a lot like the loser,” Sikkema said. “It just doesn’t put the state in a very good position ethically.”

Local governments across the state are collectively over $17 billion short on funding for retirees’ pensions and health care plans. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a task force to determine how the state might help, and results were released this week.

"Unfortunately, this is not a very helpful report,” Barnett said. Local governments wouldn’t be in as dire of a situation if the state hadn’t cut revenue sharing, she added.

Sikkema disagreed, saying the recommendations would be useful, such as the suggestion that local municipalities do more pre-funding of retiree costs.

Listen to the entire conversation above.

Ken Sikkema and Vicki Barnett join Stateside every Friday to break down the week’s political news.

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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