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Michigan lawmakers want more transparency for business incentive programs

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

This month, a package of billswas introduced in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature to rein in so-called "corporate welfare."

There are several state programs that exist to assist companies with grants, loans, tax credits and other incentives.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,  the state of Michigan is spending more than $700 million on economic development programs this year.  

But those programs have been repeatedly criticized over the years. 

“For too long, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare programs have sounded better than they have worked,” says Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton). “Beyond the headlines and promises made in press releases, little is done to ensure taxpayers are getting a return on their investment in these business subsidy deals.”

The new legislation is intended to create more transparency in how the programs work, or don't work, to encourage business investment and job creation in the state.

Republicanand Democraticlawmakers are backing the bills. The bills also claw back public tax money from businesses if they don't create as many jobs as promised.   

Lawmakers say the public deserves to know if a company that got incentives goes out of businessor a deal that gets tax incentives falls through.

A spokeswoman says the Whitmer administration is “reviewing the legislation.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.