Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > April 26, 2024 | This Week in Government: Candidate Filing Deadline Sets Battle for House Control

April 26, 2024 | This Week in Government: Candidate Filing Deadline Sets Battle for House Control

April 26, 2024
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.

Candidate Filing Deadline Sets Battle for House Control

House races across the state are starting to take shape, with the window for candidate filing closed at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Each of the 110 districts, from the Upper Peninsula to the Indiana and Ohio borders, has at least a Democrat and a Republican in the race. Gongwer News Service rates 25 seats as competitive with eight true toss-ups. With House Democrats holding a bare 56-54 margin now, control is up for grabs.

“I’m excited about our strong slate of candidates across the state,” House Republican Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Bill Schuette (R-Midland) said. “In 110 seats, there’s going to a Republican filed, which I think speaks to the sophistication of our operations.”

A handful of seats on the Michigan Bureau of Elections candidate list seemed to show either the Democrats or Republicans missing at least one candidate, but those were in seats where candidates file locally and where county clerks had not transmitted the latest information to the state.

Both parties appeared to have finalized candidate recruitment in the key seats long ago. There was just one surprise, and it was a doozy. Joe DeSana of South Rockwood, the son of Rep. James DeSana (R-Carleton) in the 29th House District, filed in the Republican primary for the 28th House District to take on Rep. Jamie Thompson (R-Brownstown Township). Thompson won a hotly contested race in 2022, and the potential for a bitter primary fight that splits the House Republican Caucus likely has Democrats intrigued.

Schuette said the Michigan Republican Party is normally responsible for ensuring that Republicans have a candidate in every district, but this year, that was left up to the House.

In every district, Schuette said Republicans had a deep bench.

“Especially in competitive seats, we’re going to be able to have battle-tested candidates who come out ready to go win in November,” he said.

He noted that Republicans have several districts in which a former representative who was term-limited is coming back to challenge a Democrat.

“Former representatives who are coming back – they’re going to win,” Schuette said. “Especially in the instances where they match the district.”

There are four such districts. Two of them appear as walk-ins for the former lawmakers. Former Rep. Nancy Jenkins-Arno (R-Clayton) is running in the open 34th District Rep. Dale Zorn (R-Onsted) must vacate because of term limits, though that seat is a likely Republican district and not on Gongwer’s list of competitive seats. Former Rep. Tim Kelly of Saginaw is running in the 93rd House District being vacated by Rep. Graham Filler (R-Duplain Township), who is not running for reelection. It’s another likely GOP seat without a primary. Former Rep. Gary Eisen is running again in the 64th House District but does face a crowded primary.

The third is not a certainty. In the 83rd House District, former Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming) is hoping to take on Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Wyoming). He has a primary first and then a competitive general.

On the Democratic side, former Rep. Tim Sneller has filed to run against Rep. David Martin (R-Davison) in the 68th House District.

House Republicans plan to work hard in the districts Trump won going back to 2016.

“There’s a lot of opportunities where Republicans can go on offense, and there were seven seats that we lost by less than 2,000 votes in the last election,” Schuette said. “We’re going to have a very competitive 2024 election.”

Those seats are the ones currently held by Rep. Joey Andrews (D-Saint Joseph), Rep. Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte), Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City), Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek), Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) and Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Mt. Clemens).

House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said in an interview he is confident Democrats can defend all their seats and listed seven currently Republican districts where Democrats will play offense.

Tate identified Rep. Jamie Thompson (R-Brownstown Township), Rep. Kathy Schmaltz (R-Jackson), Rep. Donni Steele (R-Orion Township), Rep. Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills), Rep. David Martin (R-Davison), Rep. Nancy De Boer (R-Holland) and House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) as top targets.

De Boer and Hall are likely reaches, both in areas slowly shifting toward the Democrats but in areas where Democrats have yet to develop a bench.

“House Dems are building towards victory, I think we’ve been doing that,” Tate said. “Doing this for the past 16 months, just in terms of making sure that we are setting up all of our members for success.”

Gongwer examined the races taking shape as of Tuesday evening in 23 competitive districts as well as those in the seven seats without an incumbent running:

Breen Opponent Set: Only one Republican filed to challenge incumbent Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) in the purple but left-leaning 21st House District.

Thomas Konesky is a certified residential appraiser from South Lyon. A small business owner, he’s operated his own appraising company since 2012. This will be a tough get for the Republicans. Breen has hewed more to the center, and this area has quickly shifted Democratic.

Breen has filed to run for her third term in the House.

Two GOP Contenders Taking on Koleszar: Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) comfortably won the election to his third term in the House in 2022 with 54% of the vote, but the district could be competitive.

Two Republicans have filed to run against him.

Christian Charette, of Livonia, is a 20-year-old part-time student at Schoolcraft College. He’s working toward his degree in political science and also works at the public library.

The other contender, Adam Stathakis, is the director of operations for Stathakis Inc., a carpet cleaning company.

Churches Faces Onslaught of Republicans Downriver: In the 27th District, four Republicans have filed to run against incumbent Rep. Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte).

The Downriver district was highly competitive in 2022, and Churches flipped the seat with just 50% of the vote. This seat likely looms as the most competitive in the state.

Several young Republican candidates are looking to unseat her.

Cody Dill is a member of the Gibraltar City Council and is currently attending the University of Michigan-Dearborn to study mechanical engineering. He was elected to the city council in 2019 and is the youngest person ever elected to serve there.

Another student, Rylee Linting, also is running to become the Republican candidate. Linting is the MIGOP youth vice chair and a student at Grand Valley State University. She’s studying political science.

Maria Mendoza-Boc, city planning commissioner for Gibraltar, also filed as a Republican in the 27th District. She is a realtor at Point of Sail Realty.

The final Republican contender for the seat is Frank Tarnowski, Jr. He previously ran for mayor of Wyandotte and served on the Wyandotte Board of Education before he stepped down, citing controversy over a 5G cell tower placement outside an elementary school.

DeSana’s Son Taking on Thompson in Republican Primary: Republican incumbent Rep. Jamie Thomspon (R-Brownstown Township) is facing two Republican primary challengers before she can get to the matter of defending her key seat.

Besides Joe DeSana, Beth Ann Socia of Flat Rock filed as a Republican. She ran for state Senate in 2022 to represent the 4th District and lost in the Republican primary.

Whoever comes out of the Republican primary will face Democrat Janise O’Neil Robinson, who has filed to run against Thompson in the purple Downriver seat. Robinson, also of Brownstown, is a special education teacher. This is a 50/50 seat, though Thompson won it in 2022 despite a Democratic wave at the top of the ticket. Former President Donald Trump is popular here and should provide a much better environment for the Republicans than they had in 2022.

School Board Member to Take On James DeSana: In the 29th House District, Taylor School Board member Kyle Wright has filed as a Democrat to run against Rep. James DeSana (R-Carleton).

Wright has worked with local government in Taylor, including the Taylor Recreation Department and Taylor Conservator. He also interned in the House of Representatives. He’s a graduate of Central Michigan University.

The district was competitive in 2022. Like the Thompson seat, Trump will help the Republicans here, but how the developing situation in the Thompson seat with DeSana’s son plays out will be watched for spillover effects here.

Rematch on the 31st: Rep. Reggie Miller (D-Van Buren Township) will face a rematch for her seat in November.

Dale Biniecki, of Monroe, ran against Miller in 2022 and lost with 47% of the vote. He is a truck owner and operator.

Whiteford vs. Lucas in 38th: Kevin Whiteford and George Lucas are going head-to-head in the Republican primary in West Michigan’s 38th District.

Lucas, a realtor, lost out to Whiteford, former Rep. Mary Whiteford’s husband, in the three-way 2022 primary.

The winner will take on a key race in the general election. The incumbent, Rep. Joey Andrews (D-St. Joseph), has no primary opponent. He won the general election by 51%.

Haadsma Gets New Republican Competition: For the first time in several election cycles, Rep. Jim Haadsma will face a new Republican opponent in the general election.

Dave Morgan, the former Pennfield Township supervisor, ran as the Republican candidate in the 44th District in 2018, 2020, and 2022 but has elected to stay off the ballot this year.

Calhoun County Commissioner Steve Frisbie is one of the Republicans seeking to become the general election candidate. In addition to working in county government, Frisbie is also the vice president for Emergent Health Partners Southwest Region.

Alexander Harris, a gym owner from Albion, is also running as a Republican in the 44th, along with Just Shotts of Battle Creek, a far-right candidate who has posted videos confronting elected officials in public, including Haadsma and Frisbie.

Schmaltz Faces Dem Competition: During the 2022 election cycle, Rep. Kathy Schmaltz’s (R-Jackson) Democratic competition withered away when scandal rocked the campaign of Maurice Imhoff.

This time, Jackson Mayor Daniel Mahoney has filed to run as a Democrat for the 46th District seat, which is competitive on paper. Mahoney also served on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

Two Republicans File for Left-Leaning 48th: Rep. Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor) comfortably won her seat in the 48th District with 53% of the vote in 2022. The seat, however, remains competitive.

Brian Ignatowski of Pickney is one of the Republicans who have filed for the seat. He’s a small business owner and on the MIGOP 7th District Committee. Tawn Beliger, who served on the Northfield Board of Trustees between 2016 and 2020, also filed to run.

Rematch for Steele in the 54th: Rep. Donni Steele (R-Orion Township) will once again face off against Democrat Shadia Martini of Bloomfield Hills in the race for the 54th District.

Steele edged out Martini, who owns a construction company, in the 2022 general election with 51% of the vote.

Dems Hope to Make Purple 55th Swing Blue: Three Democrats have filed for the chance to run against Rep. Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills).

Trevis Harrold formerly worked for the U.S. State Department embassies in Jamaica, Kosovo, and Mexico and served in the U.S. Army Reserves. After, he worked for Dow as their global public policy leader. He also has worked in the Michigan House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate.

Alexander Hawkins began serving in the U.S. Army in 2015. He attended Oakland Community College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University in 2021. He’s worked as an explosive ordinance disposal officer in the Army and as a congressional aide.

Neil Oza ran in 2022 but lost in the Democratic primary. He graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in supply chain management. Oza previously worked for U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.

Three-Person Dem Primary in 57th: Rep. Thomas Kuhn (R-Troy) could face a rematch in the 57th House District, which he won with 52% of the vote in 2022.

Aisha Farooqui, who lost the general election to Kuhn in 2022, is running again. She has served on the Sterling Heights Zoning Board of Appeals. She was also a member of the Macomb County Black Caucus and the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council of Detroit.

Tyler Fox, the Troy planning commissioner and zoning board of appeal ambassador, has also filed as a Democrat to run against Kuhn. The final Democrat in the primary is Douglas Waggener, an electrician from Troy.

Shannon Could Face Another Tight Race in 58th: Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) was elected to his second term in office with just 51% of the vote. Three Republicans have filed, hoping for the chance to flip the seat this cycle.

Donald Eason ran for the 13th U.S. House District in 2020 as a write-in independent. He serves as the senior minister for the Metro Church of Christ in Sterling Heights.

Ron Robinson, a member of the Utica City Council, is another contender. He is a small business owner and a former marine. Roger Goodrich, of Sterling Heights, also filed to run.

GOP Looks To Unseat Mentzer: Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Mt. Clemens) won the 61st House District with 52% of the vote in 2022. Republicans are hoping they have a candidate who can flip the swing district.

Russ Cleary, caseworker for U.S. Rep. John James, is one of the Republican contenders. Cleary was the political director for James’ campaign and worked for the Michigan Republicans field and volunteer operations during the 2022 midterm election. He previously worked in Rep. Shane Hernandez’s office and Sen. Jon Bumstead‘s office.

Robert Wojtowicz, of Mt. Clemens, also hopes to run for the seat. He’s served on the Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Trustees since 2018.

John Grossenbacher, of Clinton Township, also filed to run for the seat as a Republican.

Sneller Returns to Run for the 68th: Rep. David Martin (R-Davison) is running for his third term in the House, but he’s set to take on an experienced opponent.

Democratic former Rep. Tim Sneller, who represented the old 50th District, is set to take on the incumbent. Sneller served in the House between 2017 and 2022.

Does Witwer Hold on to the Purple 76th?: Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Township) won the solidly purple 76th District with 55% of the vote in 2022.

She now has two Republicans hoping to pull the district in the other direction.

Andy Shaver, founding pastor of Real Life Church in Charlotte, filed to run for the seat. The other contender is Peter Jones, owner of the Tangy Crab and Ohana Sushi restaurant.

This is a 50/50 seat that Witwer has made relatively safe for Democrats, though the presence of Trump on the ballot will help drive Republican turnout in the rural part of the district.

Republican Candidate Takes on Skaggs: In the 80th House District, Bill Sage of Kentwood is the only Republican filed to run.

He ran in the 2016 Republican primary for a special election in the old 80th district, which has nothing in common geographically with the current version but lost to Mary Whiteford.

This cycle, he’ll take on Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-East Grand Rapids), who won in 2022 with 56% of the vote. This is a longshot hope for Republicans with the heavy shift of Kentwood to the Democrats and the unpopularity of Trump in this area.

Brann Returns to Run in 83rd: Incumbent Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Wyoming) has two Republicans filed to run against him.

Former state Rep. Tommy Brann, who was elected in 2016 and term-limited, plans to run again. He lives in Wyoming and is a restaurant owner.

The other Republican contender is Cindy Ramirez Amante. She’s also a business owner.

This is going to be a much different seat for Brann than what he held previously. Instead of solidly Republican Byron Township, the new version attached heavily Democratic southwest Grand Rapids to purple Wyoming.

No Primaries For Either Side In 81st: Kent County Commissioner Stephen Wooden of Grand Rapids is the sole Democrat to file in the 81st House District, where Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) is not seeking reelection. Wooden announced his campaign with Hood’s endorsement shortly after she said she would not run again.

Wooden is set to go up against Republican Jordan Youngquist of Grand Rapids. The seat could be competitive. Youngquist has a campaign website but his background was not immediately clear. This is the one open seat in the state that has the potential to be competitive. Hood didn’t win it by a huge margin in 2022, and unlike other Grand Rapids suburbs, Grand Rapids Township – a key component of this seat – isn’t moving as quickly to the Democrats.

Three Republicans File Against Glanville: Three candidates have filed as Republicans for the chance to run against incumbent Rep. Carol Glanville (D-Grand Rapids).

Justin Rackman, of Grand Rapids, is a business owner who graduated from Grand Rapids Community College in 2020.

Ben June is also a small business owner. He previously worked as a financial advisor and web developer.

The final person to file in the 84th was John Wetzel, a business owner and a Michigan High School Athletic Association Basketball Official.

Glanville won this seat in a runaway in 2022.

Beson Faces Primary in 96th: Incumbent Rep. Timmy Beson (R-Bay City) faces a primary challenger in the 96th House District.

Chaz Fowler, of Bay City, is running against Beson as a Republican. He is a student affairs liaison for the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rudy Howard Jr filed as the only Democrat in the district. He previously worked in the auto industry before becoming a teacher.

This is a longshot hope for Democrats. This area has shifted sharply toward the Republicans, and Trump is very popular in the area.

GOP Wants Back 103rd: Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City) flipped the 103rd from red to blue in 2022, squeaking out a win with 49% of the vote against an incumbent Republican.

Three Republicans have filed to run against her.

Small business owner Katie Kniss of Traverse City ran for state representative in 2022 in a neighboring district where she lost in the primary. She’s currently the Grand Traverse GOP County Chair.

Lisa Trombley of Traverse City previously worked for the Department of Defense. After 30 years in Washington, D.C., she retired to Traverse City. She has served as a precinct delegate and an absentee voting election inspector and served as the Grand Traverse County Republican Party chair in 2021.

Tripp Garcia of Traverse City also filed for the district.

Coffia is a strong fundraiser, and this is an area shifting left, but given the closeness of the 2022 Coffia margin, Republicans will make a big push.

Hill vs. Everybody: Rep. Jenn Hill (D-Marquette) faces an onslaught of candidates from both sides of the aisle filing to run against her in the 109th District.

For the Democrats, there’s Margaret Brumm, who serves on the Marquette Board of Lights and Power. She is a retired patent attorney.

Randy Girard, another Democrat, has also filed to run. He currently serves on the Marquette County Road Commission. His campaign announcement says he has more than 37 years of government leadership experience.

On the Republican side, former television meteorologist Karl Bohnak plans to run, as does retired business manager and Baraga County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member Burt Mason. George Meister, a Marquette-area tree farm owner, and Melody Wagner, a farmer who has run for the state House every year since 2016, also filed.

There are several open seats to watch in the House, as well. They all lean decidedly toward one party.

Two Dems To Compete For 33rd: Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township) passed on her reelection bid to run for the Senate in 2026. Her constituent services director, Morgan Foreman, hopes to carry Brabec’s baton forward. Foreman has been endorsed by both Brabec and former Rep. Yousef r Rahbi.

Another Democrat, Rima Mohammed, an at-large member of the Ann Arbor Board of Education, also has filed for the 33rd. This is a solidly Democratic seat.

Jenkins With A Clear Path To The 34th: Former Rep. Nancy Jenkins-Arno of Clayton will get through August without a primary in the 34th House District, where Rep. Dale Zorn is currently serving but cannot seek reelection. Jenkins-Arno is eligible to run again with the changes to term limits and is the favorite here. Democrat John Dahlgren of Clinton will also get through August without a primary. Dahlgren ran against Zorn in 2022. This is a likely Republican seat Democrats are unlikely to contest.

Three Republicans To Duke It Out In The 35th: Republicans Branch County Commissioner Tom Matthew of Coldwater, Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford, and Jennifer Wortz of Quincy, the Branch County Conservation District manager, all filed to replace Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) in the 35th House District. This is one of the most Republican districts in the state.

Once Competitive 40th Could Prove Easier For Dems: Once a competitive seat, the Kalamazoo-area 40th House District where Rep. Christine Morse (D-Texas Township) is not seeking reelection is likely a Democratic primary race to determine November control. Democrats Lisa Brayton of Portage and Matt Longjohn of Portage, who ran against former U.S. Rep. Fred Upton in 2018, both filed. Kalamazoo County Commissioner Abby Wheeler of Portage withdrew.

Brayton, a Portage City councilmember and mayoral candidate, in March, pleaded guilty to an election-related crime after a residency issue caused a judge to remove her from the 2023 ballot, Mlive reported earlier this month.

Kalamazoo County GOP Chair Kelly Sackett is running for the Republicans. Sackett ran in 2022 and is currently embroiled in the GOP infighting in Kalamazoo County. Last year, she faced misdemeanor charges for a physical altercation that took place in a Clare hotel.

Once a competitive area, the western Kalamazoo suburbs have shifted quickly to the Democrats.

Crowded GOP Primary Headlined By Eisen In The 64th: Rep. Andrew Beeler (R-Port Huron) leaves the 64th House District open for a crowded Republican primary. Five Republicans, including former Rep. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Township), who lost to Beeler in the primary set up by redistricting in 2022, are running.

St. Clair County Commissioner Jorja Baldwin, Joseph Pavlov of Kimball, a former teacher at Marysville Public Schools, Dan Geiersbach of Port Huron, who ran for Senate in 2022, Ryan Maxon of Smiths Creek.

Jordan Epperson, former Ottawa County aid and House Freedom Caucus staffer, withdrew.

Three Democrats filed for the seat, though it is likely to stay in Republican hands. John Anter, Mathew Castillo, and Ken Heuvelman, all of Port Huron, will compete in the Democratic primary.

Kelly Another Former Rep With No Primary In 93rd: Former Rep. Tim Kelly of Saginaw is the sole Republican to file to replace Rep. Graham Filler (R-Duplain Township), who is not seeking reelection. The seat is likely to stay in Republican hands. Kevin Seamon of Saginaw Township, a Democrat who ran for a similar seat in 2020, is the only Democrat.

March Saw Drop in Regional Unemployment for Most of State

Sixteen of Michigan’s 17 regional labor markets reported declines in not seasonally adjusted unemployment during March, state data released Thursday showed.

The decline in unemployment in the 16 regional labor markets during March fell from between 0.1 percentage points and 0.5 percentage points, the Michigan Center for Data and Analytics reported.

Only the Ann Arbor metropolitan statistical area saw an increase in unemployment, from 3% in February to 3.1% in March.

According to the center’s monthly survey of employers, not seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment grew by about 18,000 during March, with the largest number of job increases being reported in construction (about 7,000), leisure and hospitality (about 3,000), and in government jobs (about 3,000).

“Michigan regions demonstrated positive labor market trends over the month,” Wayne Rourke, labor market information director with the Michigan Center for Data and Analytics, said in a statement. “Seasonal jobless rate reductions and payroll job gains occurred throughout most metro areas.”

The largest drop in unemployment during March was reported in Northeast Lower Michigan, a decline of 0.5 percentage points, to 7.8%. The region consists of Alcona, Alpena, Cheboygan, Crawford, Iosco, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, and Roscommon counties.

Michigan’s unemployment rate for the month fell 0.3 percentage points to 3.9% in March.

Seventy-six of the state’s 83 counties reported unemployment rate reductions during March, with a median decrease of 0.4 percentage points. Livingston County, at 2.7%, reported the lowest unemployment rate, while Mackinac County posted the highest unemployment rate at 17.8%.

House EGLE Budget Skips Landfill Tipping, Amps Up Water Infrastructure

The House doesn’t plan to back Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s landfill tipping fee increase, with the $80 million from the Renew Michigan Fund left out of the budget recommendation reported by a subcommittee on Tuesday.

Instead, the House Appropriations Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Subcommittee plans to devote more resources to water infrastructure improvements.

“Water is life,” Subcommittee Chair Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) said. “Water infrastructure dollars are crucial and foundational to supporting public health, safety, and our ability to do other infrastructure work.”

Whitmer’s budget recommendation for the Department of Great Lakes, Environment, and Energy was $1.1 billion, of which $247.8 million was from the General Fund.

The House subcommittee’s budget (HB 5499) recommends $1.07 billion, of which $257.8 million is from the General Fund.

The committee’s recommendation also reduced by half the governor’s $20 million recommendation to transition to environmentally friendly clean vehicles recommending only $10 million. The committee also recommended $15 for clean fuel and charging infrastructure compared to the governor’s $25 million.

Additional funds are allocated toward lead line replacement funding, with the House providing $50 million compared to Whitmer’s $40 million.

The House also recommends $82.2 million ($60.7 million General Fund) for local water infrastructure projects. The executive recommendation offered $25 million.

“When the budget first arrived at my desk, given some stipulations, it was clear that we were in what I would call a full-blown water infrastructure crisis,” Hood said. “What we are discovering in the fiscal year 2025 budget is that without an influx of federal cash, there is a gaping hole in water infrastructure.”

The House recommendation also included $2.5 million for a composting acceleration program, $1.5 million for a drinking water intake monitoring program, $50,000 for pension-related costs, and $1 million to improve or expand wetlands identification and mapping (editor’s note: this story was changed to correct the amount appropriated to pension-related costs).

House LEO Budget Adds Money for Housing, Not Econ Development Funds

The budget for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity proposed by a House subcommittee on Thursday declined to provide funding for several economic development initiatives recommended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and instead invests in existing programs, such as housing development.

The House Appropriations Labor and Economic Development Subcommittee reported its $2.05 billion budget recommendation to the full House Appropriations Committee Thursday.

The budget was reported 7-0, with the four Republican committee members abstaining.

Whitmer’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity budget recommendation totaled $1.8 billion ($228 million General Fund). The House budget recommendation included a $500 million General Fund.

The House left out the proposed $60 million for the Michigan Innovation Fund, $25 million for the Build Ready Sites Program, $20 million for Michigan Marketing Initiatives, $20 million for Going Pro employer training grants, $20 million for Talent Solutions business development, $8 million for the New Michigander immigration and legal services, $4 million for the Global Talent and Retention program and $4 million for the Michigan Growth Office.

Instead, the House recommended $150 million for housing development projects, $12 million for community museum grants, $10 million for community and fitness center grants, $9 million for an ethanol rebate program, and $6 million for symphony orchestra competitive grants.

Also added in the House proposal is $5 million for the Michigan Skills Fund, $5 million to promote the state as a destination for special events and national conventions, a $5 million substitute teacher pilot program to place subs in job postings from educational providers, $4 million for higher education reenrollment services, $3 million for the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, $3 million for small business Development Center regional hosts and keeps $2.4 million for housing readiness incentive grants.

The House included $1 million for several other programs, including Centers for Independent Living, Early Childhood Family Engagement, Holistic Workforce Development, Junior Achievement work programs, math and reading academies, school psychologist programming, and young adult well-being and success programs.

Republicans offered several amendments, including funds for the Pure Michigan Campaign and requiring reports to determine the effectiveness of economic development programs, but none were adopted.

Revenue Sharing Trust Proposal Added to Senate Budget

Members of a Senate budget subcommittee included a Revenue Sharing Trust Fund proposal within its Department of Treasury budget recommendations reported Wednesday, similar to a formula included in the House’s budget.

Like the House, the Senate also did not include a $25 million proposal by the governor for vehicle rebates for electric, internal combustion, and union-made automobiles.

Total revenue sharing in the Senate budget for Treasury was $1.77 billion, a $57.7 million increase from the $1.71 billion recommendation from the governor.

The Senate’s proposal included $662.4 million in statutory revenue sharing, up from the $516.6 million proposed by the governor.

Out of statutory revenue sharing under the formula, counties would receive $308.7 million, while cities, townships, and villages would receive $353.7 million.

The Senate’s recommendations would increase statutory revenue sharing to cities, townships, and villages by $60.2 million, or 20.5%, using a three-factor formula, which is one-third inverse taxable value per capita, one-third unit type population, and one-third yield equalization.

For county revenue sharing, the formula would increase by 20.5%, or about $52.5 million, through an inverse taxable value per capita formula.

The revenue-sharing formula was within the general government budget, SB 760, which was reported 3-2 along party lines to the full Senate Appropriations Committee.

“This budget is really focused on investing in communities, and we’ve known there’s major issues with, particularly, revenue sharing for a number of years, and the Senate is trying to take strong action in resolving those issues,” Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint) said.

The proposed formula is in line with a pair of House bills, HB 4274 and HB 4275, that are waiting for Senate action. The proposal would dedicate a portion of the sales tax to local governments while making the amounts locals receive automatic rather than be determined by the state.

The House had a similar Revenue Sharing Trust Fund concept in its general government budget which it reported Tuesday (See Gongwer Michigan Report, April 23, 2024).

Senators approved an overall Department of Treasury budget containing $2.76 billion. This was above the $2.64 billion the governor recommended for the department.

Within the Treasury budget, there were several Senate recommendations that differed from the governor’s proposals.

The Senate budget did not include the governor’s $25 million General Fund proposal for consumer rebates for battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and internal combustion North American-assembled vehicles.

Instead, the Senate added a $25 million General Fund for grants to local governments experiencing significant burdens from pension and other post-employment benefits systems as part of their revenue.

The Senate also included a $15 million General Fund for grants qualifying local governments for public safety-related purposes, as well as a $9.9 million General Fund for the construction of a new building for use by the 38th District Court and Eastpointe Police Department.

Another change involved the governor’s proposed $3 million General Fund for a state-run marketplace for retirement plans for small businesses.

The Senate budget instead provides a $1.5 million General Fund for a proposed Retirement Savings Program Act to assist employers in establishing IRAs for private sector employees. Legislation proposing such a program was taken up for testimony last week before a House committee (See Gongwer Michigan Report, April 18, 2024).

Another addition to the Senate budget was a $34.8 million General Fund for grants to local prosecutor offices. Also, a $1.44 million General Fund was added by the Senate for the secretary of state’s office to meet election and financial disclosure requirements.

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