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Investors on track to get tax breaks for developing blighted land

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Supporters say the tax breaks will help boost the state's economy. Opponents say it's corporate welfare.

Big business investors are waiting on Governor Rick Snyder to give them a break. A tax break that is, to build on blighted land.

Investors who buy blighted property would get new tax incentives, under a set of bills on their way to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

Last year, these so-called brownfield bills were nicknamed after Dan Gilbert, the prominent Detroit developer. That’s because opponents call them a gift to wealthy corporations at the expense of taxpayers.

But supporters like Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Olive Twp., insist the legislation will bring investment to cities big and small.

“If not for this type of tool, there are many sites in small towns, large towns that would not be available,” Meekhof says. “They would not be able to be redeveloped. And you’re getting nothing from them now. So getting something is better than getting nothing.”

But state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, voted against the bills when they were in the House.


“This is corporate welfare,” he says. “It is wealth care. It is helping a small group of very wealthy investors get richer, at the expense of everybody else.”

Proponents say there are no upfront costs to the state, and the incentives will bring more jobs and an economic boost to Michigan. Meekhof says he’s confident the governor will sign the bills.  

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R