Senators admit ignorance of state's economic issues

July 27, 2009
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The revelation last week that the Michigan Economic Growth Authority has provided its limit in tax credits to qualifying employers moving to or expanding businesses in Michigan was met with revealing comment during state Senate Finance Committee meetings.

Republican members of the Senate committee, including its chair Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, whined about “transparency” as a “condition” of approving additional opportunity for MEGA to further fund such incentives.

Committee member Sen. Mark Jansen, R- Gaines Township, suggested the legislators have no indication of the success of the tax abatement program — despite his long record of legislative work: Jansen was a township clerk prior to his election in 1996 to the House of Representatives, was twice re-elected, and then was elected to the Senate in 2006. The economic development program was created by Republican Gov. John Engler during Jansen’s House term, and ultimately provided the state with worldwide attention for its progressiveness.

It is a mystery as to how Jansen could claim to have no understanding of MEGA’s successes, especially when regarding the number of projects brought to his constituent district as a result of the program.

One wonders what took so long for the request of transparency — or more to the point, why any of the legislators would not study the record as part of their continued effort to make informed decisions, rather than complain such information had not been dropped in their lap while they sat to whine.

The drama kings and queens of the legislature prefer to spend time in these meaningless pursuits of sound bites but have not performed the one act that could have significant impact on Michigan’s economic debacle as unemployment soars to 15.4 percent: repeal and recalculate Michigan’s Business Tax!

The MEGA money debate only pales in comparison to the crushing burden of the MBT monster for existing Michigan businesses. When might legislators stop spending time framing a litany of excuses for lack of work, and use that time to reframe tax policy?

Grand Rapids Business Journal applauds a separate issue last week, one that provides some hope for collaboration in regard to the MBT and continued backing of MEGA tax credits. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and House Majority Leader Andy Dillon found common ground in regard to placing public and school employees in a state health care insurance plan. It’s the right thing to do, but the emphasis here is on the collaboration necessary to accomplish resolution of any of the serious issues facing legislators.

As for the MEGA tax credits, Jansen may have been out to lunch when Farmers Insurance Group last month agreed to bring more than 1,000 jobs to its Foremost Insurance group complex in Caledonia Township. It’s only the most recent example of “how this works.” The company is based in Los Angeles.

Or perhaps he should attend the next meeting of The Right Place Inc. board and listen to the very real stories of its directors, led by Jim Dunlap, senior executive vice president of Huntington Bancshares Inc., and vice chair Doug DeVos, president of Amway Corp. Both business leaders led the 2008 Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Regional Policy Conference. The two-day convergence of business leaders from across the state selected the MBT as the No. 1 issue in Michigan.

Or perhaps someone can just drop this in Jansen’s lap.

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