Lawmakers OK tax breaks for firms creating jobs

Michigan House of Representatives
The floor of the Michigan House of Representatives on July 12, 2017.

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A set of bills designed to attract companies creating anywhere from a few hundreds to several thousand jobs in Michigan has finally cleared the state House of Representatives.

The House had refused to take up the measures before the summer break, but returned Wednesday to pass the package of three bills.

Supporters say that offering up to $250 million in incentives to attract businesses to the state is just good business. Opponents argue the bills are a money grab for big business at the cost of taxpayers.

A rare combination of Republicans and Democrats backed Gov. Rick Snyder’s pet jobs bills, while Republican leadership, including the speaker of the House, voted against them.

>>Online: Senate Bills 242, 243, 244

At question was whether offering tax incentives in exchange for new jobs is a good idea. For the more conservative wing of the majority party, the answer is a firm no.

“Studies show these actually don’t create jobs,” said Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, who was adamant about his opposition to the tax incentives.

Rep. Brian Elder, D-Bay City, thinks just the opposite.

“What this is going to do is create new jobs in the state of Michigan. No incentives at all get handed out unless there are new jobs,” he said.

Supporters noted there are safeguards that ensure compliance and that the jobs are sustained, as well as a sunset on the program in late 2019.

Each of the three bills cleared House with more than 70 votes. The measures have also won Senate approval and are headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The big push in getting the bills passed now was that a major Taiwanese technology company, Foxconn, is rumored to be considering Michigan as the site of a new display panel factory that would employ as many as 5,000 people. A decision on that could come as early as this summer. The hope on the part of the governor’s administration is that the incentive bills will help tip the scales in Michigan’s favor.

On Wednesday afternoon, Snyder released this statement on the passage of the legislation:

“Michigan has made a tremendous economic comeback in the past six years, and passage of this legislation sends the signal that we are pressing forward to ensure the strongest possible future.

“Where before we were complacent and our economy centered around the Michigan Business Tax and a broken tax code, including an overabundance of tax credits, we are now enacting forward-thinking policies that make us more competitive for new jobs and industries in a fiscally responsible fashion. We are ensuring a future economy that is diversified and will stand on solid footing, with new jobs for Michiganders for the foreseeable future.”

–The Associated Press contributed to this report.