Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > Nov. 3, 2023 | This Week in Government: House Pushes Through Late Night Session

Nov. 3, 2023 | This Week in Government: House Pushes Through Late Night Session

November 3, 2023
Detroit Regional Chamber Presents This Week in Government, powered by Gongwer, Michigan's home for Policy and Politics news since 1906

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

House Pushes Through Late Night Session to Deliver Energy Packages

Legislation giving the Public Service Commission siting authority over large solar and wind projects and setting a 100% clean energy standard narrowly passed the House about midnight Thursday following a day of negotiating and writing amendments.

Late Thursday night, the House adopted a substitute for HB 5120 and then a whopping 24 amendments to the bill, the main bill in the siting package before passing it, and HB 5121 on a party-line vote. So complex and detailed were the changes to the bill that it was at 3 a.m. Friday, the nonpartisan staff had pieced it all together and posted the House-passed version online.

There were several significant changes to the House legislation after a difficult 24 hours for Democrats that saw many members raising concerns about taking authority away from local governments and putting it in the hands of the PSC. Democrats highlighted an amendment adopted Thursday requiring developers to attempt to work with local governments first before going through the Public Service Commission. The biggest piece of criticism of the plan is that it removes local control.

Under the bill, local governments have the option to retain control if they adopt a renewable energy ordinance no stricter than the provisions laid out in the bill on windmill setbacks and other measures. Should local governments have a compatible renewable energy ordinance, then the electric provider must file for approval with the local government, though there remain off-ramps where the PSC would have control.

Language added to HB 5120 stipulates personal property rights will be protected, a soil and economic survey report under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act for the county where a facility would be located will be conducted, and any applicant before commencing commercial operations would be required to file a report certifying its compliance with the law’s requirements.

Additionally, lawmakers inserted language about using “dark sky-friendly lighting,” requiring emergency and fire response plans in project proposals and stipulating minimum distances windmills must be placed from various structure types.

The bill was also amended to define “project labor agreements” and stipulates the contracts would guarantee against strikes and similar job disruptions, among other things.

Changes made to the main bill would require applicants to provide notice of public comment opportunity on a proposal to outline feasible alternatives if its proposal is on underdeveloped land.

Setbacks were also increased from 150 to 300 feet, and installation and maintenance on the facilities must use apprenticeship programs. Facilities also can’t “unreasonably diminish prime or other farmland.”

The decision to adopt 24 separate amendments from a variety of Democratic members, instead of just lumping them into one substitute, seemed to be designed to placate the problems several had with the prior version of the legislation.

“We want to be clear, you can still actually farm,” said House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash(D-Hamtramck), the bill sponsor. “Who would have thought that you can actually grow crops and vegetables and have wind turbines and have solar panels.”

The House also passed the Senate’s energy bill package, which included SB 271SB 273SB 502SB 519, and SB 277. The bills contain sweeping changes, with the key measure requiring a 100% clean energy portfolio by 2040 (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Oct. 26, 2023). Each bill in the package passed in a party-line vote.

Republicans were sharply critical of the legislation, with lengthy floor speeches from several members.

“Historically energy legislation has been bipartisan,” Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland) said. “We haven’t had any conversations with the Democrats about this legislation.”

Hall also said Democrats allowed the utilities to write the bills.

“The Republican position is we’re fine with transitioning to clean energy, but it has to be done affordably and in a reliable way. As the technology gets there, then we support transitioning.,” Hall said.

An amendment was added to SB 271 to allow the Upper Peninsula to have a slower transition from natural gas and require the PSC to prepare a report on the U.P.’s unique energy needs.

Rep. Jenn Hill (D-Marquette) spoke about the importance of thinking about the U.P. differently.

“The iron mine for the longest time was the largest energy user in all of Michigan, and it’s a question of how in the world are we going to make renewable energy work for something that needs so much electricity,” Hill said. “I’m really excited that … this bill is comprehensive and looking at this transition in all these different ways.”

Disclosure and transparency conversations made it into the energy bill votes, with Rep. Tom Kunse (R-Clare) and Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport) recusing themselves from bills in the package.

Rep. Tom Kunse (R-Clare) recused himself from the vote on SB 271 because Consumers Energy is a client of his business. He said House Republican legal counsel advised him not to vote on the legislation because he could potentially profit from it because his company transports lime to help Consumers reduce its emissions.

“They leave it up to us to make our own decisions (on ethics), and that’s not a good policy,” said Kunse, who sits on the House Ethics Committee and has been pushing for the House to take up transparency legislation.

Lightner, who owns a farm, recused herself from the vote on SB 277, which sets a policy for farmers to rent land for commercial solar operations.

Despite the energy bill packages being introduced more than a month ago and several committee hearings to discuss and amend the legislation, it was unclear well into Thursday whether either package would have enough votes to pass, though the sitting bills were more of a question.

Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) was the final Democratic holdout, according to sources. She was the last member of the caucus to put a vote on the board, but Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos) also was reluctant to put up her vote for many of the bills in the package.

“Rachel Hood loves the planet just as I do,” Aiyash said. “I knew this would be a united effort by House Democrats because we recognize that this is a generational opportunity for the state to be a leader in clean energy.”

The House package also includes language that makes project labor agreements and working with unions a top priority, Aiyash said.

House leadership appeared reluctant to bring the package to a vote Thursday night, but Aiyash was confident all Thursday evening that he had the votes.

“I know how to count,” he said.

The energy packages passed without any support from Republicans.

At one point Thursday night, House Republicans left the floor for caucus despite members being required to stay in their seats under Rule 32 because they said they weren’t given the opportunity to review all the amendments.

Hall said that the bills allow energy companies to lock in their rates and pass on the costs of transitioning to renewable energy to ratepayers.

Republicans spoke in opposition to the energy packages for more than 40 minutes on the House floor late Wednesday night.

A common concern was local control.

“I’m voting no against these bills to protect the integrity of our local decision-making authority and to ensure the voices of our residents are not silenced,” Rep. Jaime Greene (R-Richmond) said during a floor speech. “A yes vote is a vote against local control. No matter how you cover this up, you can’t put lipstick on a pig.”

Many members said that residents’ concerns on the issue were completely ignored, despite an outpouring of opposition.

“Lansing wants what Lansing wants, and everyone is a servant of Lansing,” Rep. Phil Green (R-Watertown Township) said during his floor speech.

Aiyash said that was untrue because local governments kept a say in the decision.

“Locals now have an opportunity to set up a process, and so long as it matches similar state standards, a developer would be required to go through this local process first and would have four months and then an additional four-month extension to actually work with the developers through a local process,” he said.

The bills don’t give the state eminent domain, so if private landowners don’t want turbines or solar panels on their land, the state won’t have the authority to put them there, Aiyash said.

“This does not happen if a private property owner does not agree to this to begin with,” he said. “This actually give landowners a lot of flexibility and freedom.”

Republicans also argued that the energy bills would make Michigan’s power grid less reliable and more expensive.

“The people of Michigan have the right to say no. The overall thrust of this package is that the state is going to force everyone to rely on unreliable technology, whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not,” Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) said during a floor speech. “There may come a day when wind and solar can become relied on because of their own merits instead of subsidies, but this is not that day and the only realistic impact of this legislation on the average family is a lot of more expensive, less reliable energy.”

Aiyash pushed back against that as well, saying that the Public Service Commission was required to take affordability, environmental justice, and climate change into account, but Republicans said the affordability piece was removed from the final version of the legislation.

Republicans said that the affordability provision was removed from SB 502, but it was still included in the list of criteria a utility must have in an Integrated Resource Plan.

Hall also criticized the energy packages because, at the start of the term, conversations around energy started with a desire to hold utilities accountable.

Aiyash said that Republicans hadn’t offered any legislation to address utility affordability or accountability but that Democrats have introduced legislation and held hearings.

“I have not seen my Republican counterparts for the last 40 years address reliability and affordability in the state of Michigan,” he said. “I’d love to see what Minority Leader Hall has in place, but if we’re just going to talk, the sun’s going to shine, and Michigan House Democrats will continue to rein in the power.”

Public Safety Fund, Other Key Bills Fail to Move, Must Wait For 2024

It may be November, but Thursday had all the feels of a late December as the House held a more than 14-hour session that included the failure to pass legislation that is a key priority of House Speaker Joe Tate.

HB 4605, which would create a violence prevention fund, has been touted by Tate (D-Detroit) and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. The bill would earmark sales tax revenues for public safety in cities, villages, and townships.

After hours of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the bill was put up on the board for a vote and allowed to fail 52-51 – four votes short of passage. A motion to reconsider was made and passed on for the day so the House could bring it up again.

However, if the Legislature plans to adjourn by November 9 – as expected – any legislation that has not cleared one of the legislative houses won’t be able to be taken up next week, so it is likely waiting until 2024.

Republicans said they couldn’t support the public safety fund as drafted because the funding was not specifically for law enforcement agencies. Under the bills, money from the new fund would go to local governments for “public safety measures,” based on the level of crime in each area.

“There’s no guarantee that any of this in the bill actually goes to law enforcement,” Rep. Mike Harris (R-Waterford Township) said. “This could go to any woke programs that any community decides to do, but it does not guarantee that that money goes (to law enforcement).”

Harris defined “woke programs” as any social program that wouldn’t have to be related to law enforcement.

Democrats criticized Republicans for being unwilling to “back the blue.”

“I took a portion of (the Republicans) amendments to make sure townships were also included, and when we did that, they moved the goal post,” bill sponsor Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn) said. “We wanted to send a message that if you’re an officer and work the beat alone, if you’re an officer who’s overworked … we were going to back you up as a state … but we voted it down, and by we, let me be clear, that side of the aisle voted it down.”

The bill and its companion were not taken up before the House adjourned just before 1 a.m. Friday.

Other legislation that should have been taken up by the House or Senate Thursday was less dramatic. Several pieces of legislation are looking at 2024 for potential passage.

While only a couple of months away, this means many items passed likely won’t take effect until 2025 unless they are bipartisan items by Senate Democrats on which at least six Republicans agreed to support immediate effect.

On Thursday, legislation (HB 4482HB 4483HB 4484HB 4485HB 4486, and HB 4487) that would make key changes to sexual assault criminal and civil statute of limitations and government immunity for education institutions was on the House agenda but not taken up despite an evening push from supporters for the House to pass them. Other issues at least waiting until 2024 if taken up at all:

Election Bills: Legislation (HB 4127 and HB 4128) to ban guns at polling places was on the House agenda Wednesday but never came up for a vote. The House also didn’t take up the bills Thursday. Promote the Vote on Thursday also called on the Senate to take up SB 603 

and SB 604 regulating the recount and election challenger processes to ensure that voting and vote counting run smoothly in the 2024 elections. Those bills were not voted on Thursday.2018 Environmental Boards: The Senate on Thursday did pass SB 393 and SB 394, which would eliminate the Environmental Science Advisory Board and the Environmental Permit Review Commission, respectively. The House, however, did not move its bills (HB 4824HB 4825, and HB 4826) to eliminate the Environmental Rules Review Committee.

Post-Labor Day School Start: HB 4671 has been sitting on Third Reading in the House since September 6. The bill would remove the requirement that school districts start after Labor Day.

Minimum Staffing: HB 4688, which was altered before being reported by the House Labor Committee on Thursday, originally would have required minimum staffing levels to be included in collective bargaining for all public employees. It was limited to police and fire before being sent to the House floor.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments on Thursday urged members to call their representatives and ask them to oppose the bill. It did not come up for a vote on Thursday.

Data Center Tax Break: Bills that would exempt the storage, use, or consumption of data center equipment from the sales and use tax were on the House agenda Thursday but ultimately not taken up (HB 4905 and HB 4906).’

Make It In Michigan Bills: The House and Senate both have large packages of bills to rename the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund the Make It In Michigan Fund and set up a new element requiring the state to use some of its incentive funds to directly benefit the community where the project will go. The Senate advanced its bills to Third Reading on Tuesday. The House bills were reported from the committee Tuesday and are on Second Reading.

Fertility Fraud: These bills were on Third Reading last month but were never passed. HB 4178 would prohibit and provide penalties for false representation in assisted fertility. It’s part of a package of bills that includes HB 4179HB 4180HB 4181, and HB 4182.

Local Preemption Repeal: A Snyder-era law called the Local Government Labor Regulatory Limitation Act bars local governments from regulating employment relationships with nonpublic employers, setting their own minimum wage, regulating strikes, or regulating employer hours or scheduling of employees. SB 171, which has heavy support from organized labor, would repeal it. It’s been pending under General Orders on the Senate floor for five weeks since winning committee approval.

Land Value Tax: Another major Duggan/Tate priority that appears dead in the water. Tate made a push in October but could not corral enough of his Democratic caucus behind the bills (HB 4967HB 4968HB 4969, and HB 4970).

Senate Approves Making FAFSA Application a Grad Requirement

High school students would need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to graduate under a bill that passed the Senate along party lines following debate over the need for making such a move.

The proposal to add filling out a FAFSA form, with an opt-out option, would be enacted through SB 463, which passed 20-18.

Prior to the vote, bill sponsor Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) called the proposed changes a major opportunity for students, adding roughly a dozen other states have similar requirements in place.

Camilleri said in the most recent year, only about half of graduating high school seniors in Michigan filled out a FAFSA, which connects students with financial aid and loan options for higher education. The senator added that the state is leaving about $100 million in federal student aid on the table as a result.

He repeated the story he told when the bill was in committee, saying that when he filled out FAFSA and was able to attend the college of his choice which he said ultimately “changed the trajectory of my life.”

“At its core, FAFSA gives students a comprehensive picture of what’s possible,” Camilleri said.

Republicans took aim at the proposal before the vote, with Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township) saying she disagreed with the premise of the bill.

Johnson pointed out that last month the State Board of Education in a resolution voiced its opposition to the bill, expressing concerns including that it could create unintended barriers to graduation (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Oct. 11, 2023).

“There are many reasons the student or the family may wish not to complete the form, which would only be used for financial aid consideration if they plan to obtain a post-secondary education training beyond high school,” Johnson said. “We should not set a precedent of leveraging the issuance of a student’s high school diploma to accomplish goals that are beyond the academic requirements for students to graduate.”

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) said the provision “reeks of snobbery and elitism” that some in Lansing believe they know better than local teachers and administrators.

“It’s incredibly unnecessary and insulting that once again, Lansing feels necessary to go in and say: ‘do this too before you can graduate,’” McBroom said.

Camilleri pointed out in defense of the bill that trade schools also accept FAFSA.

“Without making this a graduation requirement and really forcing the conversation in our schools statewide, I believe that we will continue to struggle with FAFSA completion and post-secondary attainment,” Camilleri said.

Funds For Highland Park, School Debt Relief, Capital Outlay OK’d

More than $640 million in total supplemental funding was passed Thursday by the Legislature with money for the Highland Park water agreement, state trunkline, and bridge construction, emergency loan debt relief to school districts, and setting up a new education department, which was announced earlier this year by the governor.

Long-anticipated capital outlay authorization, several federal funding items, multiple community enhancement grants, and other individual project grants were also included in HB 4292 and SB 174. A total of $615.6 million was contained within HB 4292, with the conference committee report adopted 4-2 along party lines.

Conference committee members later Thursday adopted the report for SB 174, which contained $9 million in supplemental funding for the 2023-24 fiscal year and $20 million in supplemental funding for the 2022-23 fiscal year. It, too, was adopted and reported 4-2 along party lines.

Both chambers voted along party lines for HB 4292, with a House vote of 56-54 and a Senate vote of 20-18. SB 174 also passed the Senate 20-18 and the House 56-52.

HB 4292 contains $339.8 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year, of which $319.5 is federal revenue and $275.8 million ($103.7 million General Fund) for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

The largest single item in HB 4292 is $234.2 million in fiscal year 2022-23 federal funding for state trunkline road and bridge construction. The next-largest thing for 2022-23 funding is $40 million in federal funding for child development and care public assistance.

For 2023-24, the bill includes $30 million General Fund to meet the settlement agreement terms between the city of Highland Park and the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Last week, the water authority approved a term sheet outlining some of the provisions of the long-time dispute between the organization and the city.

Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park), in a statement, said for too long, Highland Park residents have been paying for water that often does not reach their homes.

“With this agreement, bolstered by some state funding, the city’s water infrastructure will be upgraded to modern standards,” McFall said. “This agreement will benefit the residents who have been burdened by some of the highest water bills in the state because of Highland Park’s failing infrastructure. Now residents will have reliable water access that they deserve.”

For the 2023-24 fiscal year funding, the largest HB 4292 item is more than $114.1 million School Aid Fund for school district emergency load debt relief.

The Muskegon Heights School District would receive the most, $31.3 million for various debts. Another $19.4 million would go to the former Willow Run Community Schools, and $18.4 million would go to the Pontiac City School District.

The money would also go to make debt payments for Inkster Schools ($12.1 million), the Benton Harbor Area Public Schools ($10 million), and Ypsilanti Community Schools ($5.5 million).

Boilerplate stipulates that some of the funding for the former Ypsilanti School District or the former Willow Run Community Schools will have to be for retiring debt or for improving student achievement at the Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Also contained within the bill are $100 placeholders for 13 college and university capital outlay projects but, importantly, state authorization of those projects.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) said prior to the vote that the bill has many important provisions. “This bill signifies another important chapter in Michigan’s history, closing the books on the fiscal year,” Anthony said.

Anthony said the $114 million to eliminate school debt was important for residents in the areas where the affected districts are located.

“This puts more money into classrooms and provides much-needed tax relief to residents of those communities who have been advocating for change for years,” Anthony said.

Anthony later defended the choices for school district debt payments when asked by reporters about the number of schools that take on debt each year.

She said each of their situations was unique. Ypsilanti ended up with significant debt after voluntary consolidation; Inkster no longer has a school district but has debt and for Marshall and Albion, the students bussed to Marshall do not have quality school facilities.

“All of these districts are majority-minority, and in order for them to get ahead, having some level of relief from the state was really important,” Anthony said.

Senate Democrats who represent areas that include some of the districts receiving debt forgiveness urged support for the supplemental prior to the vote.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) said local taxpayers wouldn’t pay down the debt after the Inkster School district was dissolved by the state about 10 years ago until 2032.

“My constituents in Inkster need this relief. They deserve this relief, and if they choose to try to resurrect their school district, it can’t happen without remaining debt forgiveness. Please, let’s move Inkster forward,” Polehanki said.

Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) provided similar remarks regarding the Ypsilanti school line item in the bill.

“School consolidation is something that in many cases makes sense and can save our taxpayers money, but in this case as a product of this consolidation this school district was saddled with a tremendous amount of debt,” Irwin said. “With this appropriation today, we’re going to lift that debt off the backs of these children and these schools and we’re going to allow them to put millions of dollars back in the classroom instead of wasting those dollars on interest payments.”

In the House, Rep. Joey Andrews (D-St. Joseph) and Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City), representing Benton Harbor and Inkster, respectively, also lauded the importance of school debt forgiveness.

Conferees also included $6.51 million for 30 classified full-time equivalent positions and six unclassified FTEs for the startup costs of the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potential created by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer under an order earlier this year (See Gongwer Michigan Report, July 12, 2023).

HB 4292 also included $3 million in School Infrastructure and Consolidation Fund monies for Marshall Public Schools to improve a school building in the former Albion Public School District.

The bill also provides another $50 million in federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds to purchase drinking water filtration devices in schools and child care centers.

Conferees included a $15 million General Fund for PFAS remediation and non-PFAS environmental response activities at a former industrial site near Muskegon Lake.

Boilerplate language for the 2023-24 fiscal year includes multiple large capital outlay items.

A $66 million cost increase was provided for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget for its comprehensive state public health and environmental sciences laboratory project authorized in 2022. DTMB also received a $51 million cost increase for its new psychiatric hospital complex project, also authorized in 2022.

A$57 million cost increase was authorized for Michigan State University to pay for renovations and additions to its greenhouses and dairy facilities. Those were originally authorized in 2022.

Several items involved grants to specific projects and grants, some of which were previously approved in the budget.

A total of $16.3 million in General Fund was contained for community enhancement grants. There was $5 million for community development financial institutions for housing and food access projects in Saginaw. Other items were revisions of existing grants: $4.8 million for the Charles H. Wright Museum, $3.2 million for the Detroit Historical Society Museum, $3 million for a symphony economic recovery program, and $300,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Flint.

Another $4 million General Fund was provided for a community center grant program, as well as a $1 million General Fund for a community enhancement grant for the city of Jackson to support affordable housing projects.

The Michigan Health and Hospital Association would receive a $2.5 million General Fund for an education, training, and housing incentive program in Flint under the bill.

Public infrastructure grants totaling $1.58 million in General Fund were provided. These were split between an existing $1 million for a nonprofit to redevelop Merit Park in Detroit, as well as $500,000 for utility infrastructure in Gross Pointe Farms and $80,000 for a community foundation for Maybury Farm north of Northville.

Other items for fiscal year 2023-24 include $10 million for late qualifying eligible manufacturing personal property tax reimbursement, $7.5 million for health care supply chain technology, $3.9 million for a business loop interchange to connect US-131 and business spur US-131 in Kalamazoo and $3 million for municipality election grants ($1 million apiece to Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing), all of which are General Fund.

Several other key items were also contained within the bill for fiscal year 2022-23.

A total of $14.5 million in General Fund was included for state veteran’s facilities. Of this, $8.5 million would be for the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, $4.6 million for the Chesterfield Township Home for Veterans and $1.4 million for the Michigan Veterans Homes Administration.

For the Department of Health and Human Services, there are items using federal American Rescue Plan funding, including $13.7 million for a coronavirus data modernization and a laboratory digital exchange. There is also $7.4 million for training and building capacity in state and local public health technologies as well as $4.2 million for data modernization.

Federal COVID-19 grants totaling $3.6 million to support the National Wastewater Surveillance System and $3.3 million granting funding to support access to care for uninsured persons.

The bill authorizes another $1.6 million in local funding for the city of Detroit to support higher-than-expected costs for Detroit Detention Center operations.

For the Department of Natural Resources, $4 million, half General Fund and half federal funding, would be for the construction of a facility in Luce County to replace an existing facility.

Another $3 million in federal funding would be for the Department of State Police for highway safety planning, including programs on distracted driving, Click it or Ticket, and child safety seat awareness.

The largest item in SB 174 for fiscal year 2023-24 deals with school-based health center facility upgrades and involves the movement of $45 million School Aid Fund to other sections in the budget, leading to a net zero restructuring of the funding.

The shift in the $45 million to maintain net zero School Aid Fund levels involves movement to two line-items for one-time funding. The first is $35 million for school-based health centers, and the second is $10 million for an electronic patient data and healthcare analytic system for each child and adolescent health center program.

The bill provides a $5 million School Aid Fund to Washtenaw Community College for costs associated with a semiconductor research alliance and $4 million in federal grant monies to the Center for Educational Performance and Information for continued operations. These funds are for fiscal year 2023-24.

The match requirement for the MI Healthy Schools grant program for drinking water system upgrades was also removed under boilerplate.

Council Told Placemaking, Transit Important to Grow Population

If Michigan wants to grow its population and become more prosperous, it needs to ensure Generation Z stays here. To do that, one official told the Growing Michigan Together Council during its meeting Thursday the state needs to create vibrant cities with public transit.

The state has already lost the millennial generation, Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future, Inc., told the council on Thursday. If it loses Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, it will become poorer, and the state is already poorer than it has ever been.

Glazer said six out of 10 jobs in Michigan don’t pay enough for a family of three to be considered middle class. He said the state is closer to Mississippi in median income than it is to Minnesota.

“Michigan’s economy has too many low-wage jobs,” he said. The only way to become prosperous in the 21st Century is with a four-year degree, he said, adding that 90% of the jobs in the state that pay more than $75,000 annually require a degree.

“The thing we need to stop telling people is carpenters make more than architects,” he said.

Besides transit and placemaking, Glazer said the state needs to invest in quality education from birth through college.

He said data shows younger people move to big cities with dense, walkable neighborhoods. These are not low-tax places with a low cost of living, he added.

Growing Michigan Together Council Chair John Rakolta lamented the need for more understanding of the issues facing Michigan that have been persistent for decades. On lower wages, he noted the United Auto Workers strike, where the union was able to increase wages significantly.

“How come we haven’t talked about that more in the 50 years we have been slipping into this abyss?” he said.

He added later: “We cut taxes.”

Glazer said cutting taxes doesn’t work as an effort to retain and attract residents.

The council is charged with submitting a report to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before the end of the year. It will address revenue issues, and Republicans have been critical of the council, saying it will suggest tax increases.

Workgroups within the council have released recommendations that would seemingly involve a suggestion for a tax increase to fund. However, a final report has not yet been crafted.

The early recommendations include potential revenue generation for PreK-12, property tax changes, more road funding, tax credits in the workforce arena, and a child tax credit.

Still, on Thursday, Rakolta said there are ways to find necessary funding that don’t involve taxes.

“We are going to dedicate ourselves to fiscal responsibility,” he said at Thursday’s meeting.

Additionally, he said the council is having studies conducted to benchmark Michigan’s tax structure and spending. Those studies should be available to the members before the December 1 meeting, he said.

Learn About Advocacy

Learn how the Chamber is advocating for business in Detroit and Southeast Michigan.