Brownfield legislation goes to governor’s desk

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan House sent Gov. Rick Snyder legislation on Thursday that would ease the cost of cleaning up brownfield sites across the state.

The legislation, which the Senate approved in February, seeks to help developers clean up areas with environmental hazards. The bills allow developers to keep a portion of taxes generated from businesses and residents moving into the site. The main bill passed 85-22 while others passed on 83-24 margins.

Additionally, developers would be able to receive up to 50 percent of taxes generated from the sites for a maximum of up to 20 years and calls for a $40 million cap that developers could be reimbursed for annually.

Some Republicans and Democrats voiced their opposition to the legislation before a House vote like Troy Republican state Rep. Martin Howrylak.

“Senate bill 111 and its companion bills is nothing more than a transfer of wealth from hard-working taxpayers to selected special interests,” Howrylak said. “They should be voting against it, I will tell you a conservative reason to vote against it, is that we don’t support crony capitalism.”

The bills were initially introduced by Republican Sen. Ken Horn and he said that his legislation is not crony capitalism or about picking winners or losers but about fixing problems in the cities.

Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard also said the legislation is not corporate welfare.

“I could not disagree more, corporate welfare picks winners and losers, this bill does not do that, or this package of bills does not do that,” Leonard said. “My top priority during this entire discussion on this package was to ensure that taxpayers are protected. We have hundreds of brownfield sites around the state, I have visited some of them myself, we’ve got to get them cleaned up and I believe this package of bills is the most conservative way to do that. ”

Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy at the conservative think-tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said it would create an uneven playing field and only cater to developers with connections.

“The bottom line is lawmakers just passed legislation that will benefit only a handful of well-heeled developers each year,” LaFaive said.

LaFaive also said that lawmakers cannot prove it will work because they are “dangling” millions of incentives in front of developers and others and just expecting developers to come forward because it would not have worked otherwise.

“I suspect that this one will not generate the economic growth development that lawmakers believe it will as well,” he said.

Similar legislation was introduced in the GOP-controlled Senate last November but it later died in the Republican-led House during the lame-duck session. Horn said it was a blessing in disguise because that meant he and others were able to work out more of the details and improve on his bill.

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