Area leaders frustrated over debt debate

Like many Americans, Tri-Cities leaders say they are frustrated with recent stalemates in the nation's capitol - but many believe a compromise will be reached before the federal government enters default. "I would be shocked if we saw this as an ongoing collapse of the system,' said Brigit Lewis, executive director of the North Ottawa County Council on Aging. "I truly don't believe that's going to happen.'
Marie Havenga
Jul 29, 2011


But if it does, Lewis’ clients stand to lose Social Security income and Medicare assistance, although it us unclear which debts the federal government would not pay if a budget agreement cannot be reached.

The elderly advocate said her organization is fortunate to have strong millage support from Ottawa County municipalities — and capital reserves in case of emergency.

Officials from the city of Grand Haven, Ottawa County and Spring Lake Township also said they are in strong financial positions with cash reserves not dependent on federal resources. But the unknowns are frustrating, they said.

Ottawa County Fiscal Services Director Bob Spaman said some county employee jobs are dependent on federal grant money.

Spaman said if payments end, there could be short-term layoffs. The fiscal manager said he is not certain how many employees are paid with grant money.

“We’re kind of in limbo,” he said. “Nobody knows what the feds are going to do. Everyone is in the dark right now.”

Ottawa County Commissioner Jane Ruiter of Spring Lake said if the federal government’s credit rating tumbles, those of the county and local municipalities could also be rocked.

“It would affect absolutely all of us,” she said. “Our municipalities rely on Ottawa County’s AAA credit rating. If that falls, it will affect municipalities and their bond ratings.”

Ruiter, who said she and fellow commissioners have talked informally about the budget crisis, said home buyers and senior citizens could also be pinched. Ruiter said she is not confident there will be a compromise before a credit crunch.

According to a recent CNN poll, 66 percent of those surveyed think a government default would have a negative impact on their personal finances. Ruiter thinks the same.

Both Ruiter and Spring Lake Township Supervisor John Nash said officials in Washington could take a cue from Tri-Cities-area leaders — who have made collaboration a cornerstone of the community.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.


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