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Michigan Legislature to take up controversial incentives before winter break

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Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
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The Michigan Legislature will begin its winter break at the end of this week after an expected vote on a controversial package of business incentives.

The bills have bipartisan support, but they are being blasted as corporate welfare by both free-market advocates and progressive organizations.

Brad Williams, a vice president at the Detroit Regional Chamber, which represents businesses in southeast Michigan, said he understands the objections, but they are not practical.

“We have to deal with the fact that states across the United States are battling for automotive investment,” said Williams.

Lansing is expected to be the location of a new electric vehicle battery factory backed by General Motors, but Ford recently selected locations in Kentucky and Tennessee for its battery-powered vehicle factories.

Michael LaFaive, a director at the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said it’s not fair to offer incentives to only some businesses.

Those sweeteners are "very expensive," he said, "especially when you consider opportunity costs. The money dedicated to underwriting a corporation, for instance, might be better spent on efficient transportation infrastructure, other public services, or even across-the-board tax relief."

The money for the incentives would likely come from federal COVID-19 recovery funds, which cannot be used to fund tax cuts.