Much has been done, but much is left to do

May 27, 2011
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Grand Rapids Business Journal marks here the several history-making events of the last week, capped by the tax law change signed by Gov. Rick Snyder that eliminated the hated Michigan Business Tax. It is historic in and of itself that both houses of the legislature and the governor moved in concert to effect such change, and it makes more despicable the deadlock-by-design of both political parties these last 10 years, which likely made the Great Recession far more crippling in Michigan.

Business owners may make equal celebration of the beginning of regulatory change. The promised review and revocation of archaic and unnecessary regulations also began last week. For instance, Snyder signed a bill to modernize the Occupational Code, eliminating the requirement that brokers display employees’ real estate agent licenses by hanging them on a wall in the office. Most agents now work in the field.

It is no less parenthetical to note Snyder also signed a bill prohibiting the attachment of transfer fees to commercial property titles. A companion bill applies the prohibition to residential property. Real estate investors began using special rider agreements to attach transfer fees to a piece of property requiring that a designated beneficiary or trustee receive payment every time a piece of property is sold, up to 99 years.

Despite these advances, Snyder’s comment that “much is left to be done” should be underscored. It is imperative that the return of tax dollars to local K-12 school districts and colleges and universities be reviewed, especially as tax revenues increase. The Business Journal reiterates: Education funding deficits come in the wake of an ever-increasing number of voices now providing economic impact studies of education (particularly early education) as an economic driver. CEOs for Cities this month announced a “competition to increase the number of residents with a college degree and win $1 million,” called The Talent Dividend Prize, and kicked it off in Chicago at Roosevelt University. CEOs for Cities said the competition is an effort to increase college attainment in the nation’s cities by one percentage point, which it calculates will be worth $124 billion a year in increased national earnings. Further, the group refers to studies showing that 58 percent of a city’s success, as measured by per-capita income,
can be attributed to the percentage of the adult population with a college degree.

States bordering Michigan created aggressive new tax-break lures in economic development policy this year. As the brownfield redevelopment tax credits expire (a particularly important impetus for Grand Rapids the past eight years), the governor and the reinvented Michigan Economic Development Association must address renewal and new policy.

While great excitement is created when General Motors announces creation of 4,000 new jobs, CNN broadcast a report suggesting Michigan is a “Silicon Valley” for technology. Ann Arbor-based Google has announced this to be its biggest hiring year for its Michigan operation. This suggests a new approach and creative effort for MEDC in assuring those jobs come to Michigan.

Indeed, much is left to be done.

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