Michigan Legislature’s $1 Billion Spending Approval Has Been Rejected

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature this week added $1 billion in new spending to an already record $76 billion budget, a boost meant to attract big economic projects and address the setback immediate response from several key Republicans.

A majority of the $1 billion package is earmarked for an economic development fund that has already been used to send hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives to Ford Motor Co. and General Motors. Funding for the supplementary budget approved Wednesday would come from the state’s $7 billion surplus. The measure is now before Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer for consideration.

The Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund, commonly referred to as SOAR, was announced as a way to attract businesses to the state and the approved $846 million will help replenish the fund. Lawmakers used the SOAR fund in March to allocate $666 million for General Motors projects that are expected to create between 3,200 and 4,000 jobs.

Controversy has also surrounded the fund. Just months after Ford received $101 million in tax incentives for projects in the state, the company announced it was laying off 3,000 white-collar workers, mostly in Michigan.

Curtis Hertel, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Ford’s $101 million deal with the state will still create 3,200 new hourly jobs and is separate from layoffs.

“Do I want Ford to keep those other jobs? Absolutely,” Hertel said. “But the reality is that if we hadn’t made the SOAR investment, we would have lost those two jobs.”

The supplemental package was the result of negotiations between the Republican-majority legislature and Whitmer. But several key Republican lawmakers have spoken out against it.

Republican State Rep. Thomas Albert, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who is running for a state Senate seat, resigned his post early in the day in protest.

“The action the Legislative Assembly is considering today is reckless and irresponsible to taxpayers, and I will be voting against it,” Albert said in a statement following his resignation.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon thanked Albert on social media for “standing up for the taxpayers of Michigan” and also asked if any of the SOAR funds will go to a planned West Michigan plant. by a Chinese electric vehicle battery maker in a video statement posted on social media. media.

The legislation passed did not mention specific economic development projects.

Earlier this week, local officials in western Michigan approved tax breaks for a proposed $2.4 billion electronic battery plant by the Gotion company in Big Rapids.

Otie McKinley, spokesperson for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the group that manages the SOAR fund, said in a statement Thursday that the group is “working with our partners to attract transformational investment to the Big Rapids site.”

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Joey Cappelletti is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.