The GOP-controlled Michigan House of Representatives slashed proposed funding for veterans, home-delivered meals for seniors and assistance for Flint’s water crisis a day before approving a bill that would allow wealthy developers to pocket public money.
The House on Thursday approved legislation that would give large tax incentives for massive redevelopments that contain environmental hazards. Many Democrats also approved the bills, which were backed by billionaire Dan Gilbert, who wants the tax dollars to redevelop the J.L. Hudson’s Store in the heart of downtown Detroit.
A day earlier, Republicans rejected the Democrats’ plan to provide more funding for schools, Flint’s water crisis, meals for seniors and environmental clean-ups as part of the 2017-18 budget.
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“How can we even think of literally taking food out of the mouths of our seniors, many of whom are veterans, when they can’t leave their homes?” State Rep. Brian Elder, D-Bay City, asked.
While those services were cut, legislators from both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly approved legislation that would allow developers to use both sales and income tax generated by brownfield sites. Developers already collect property taxes from brownfield redevelopments.
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The Detroit delegation was split on the brownfield bills. Rep. Leslie Love supported the legislation, while Stephanie Chang and Rose Mary C. Robinson voted against it.
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Rep. Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, called the legislation “corporate welfare” that goes way beyond the tax incentives under the current brownfield laws.
The Senate, which passed very similar legislation in February, is expected to sign off before sending it to Gov. Rick Snyder for final approval.
The Senate also is working on its own version of the budget.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.