When Michigan’s new House of Representatives sits in January, our elected leaders will face its most daunting challenge since the Great Depression, if ever. And given how badly the Great Recession hit Michigan, that does mean something.
The overarching purpose of Lansing’s lame duck session is clear. Michigan must put aside partisan politics and unite around efforts to accelerate its economy as it navigates COVID-19.
The lame duck session must be a balance to meet the immediate challenges created by the pandemic, while continuing the long-term work needed to fundamentally prepare Michigan to better compete in the 21st century economy. This goal is achieved through better educational outcomes, strengthening our highly skilled workforce, promoting a more competitive business environment, and supporting state leadership in mobility.
Much of this work will have to be brought forward by the next legislature, but important steps must be taken before the end of the year.
There are five steps the legislature can take in the lame duck to better position Michigan for economic recovery over the coming year.
Adopt the PPE Tax Relief Package: This legislation protects businesses by exempting PPE purchases from sales and use taxes and offering a refundable tax credit to employers who maintain COVID-safety plans. 19. Employers are taking the necessary steps to protect employers and clients, but it is very expensive and many more will be forced to close due to the undue burden created by the pandemic. This package offers much needed relief by making PPE more affordable.
Reauthorize the Good Jobs for Michigan program: The Good Jobs for Michigan program rewards employers for creating higher paying jobs that meet or exceed the average wage in a region. The Legislature must re-authorize this program to help employers create well-paying jobs, which will strengthen our economy. As the state recovers from these catastrophic health and economic crises, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. needs all the possible tools at its disposal, including this program.
Support Launch Michigan School Funding Equity Plan: Fair funding is essential to repair Michigan’s talent pool and develop the workforce needed to attract investment and create jobs. Equal funding does not translate into equal education because different students have different needs and we should fund them accordingly. The key is to provide fair funding backed by Launch Michigan. It won’t happen overnight, but a good first step is to adequately fund the K-12 Best Practices Center. Then, in 2021, we can strive to achieve equity in education spending by adding funding multipliers based on factors such as poverty rates and geographic isolation.
Advancing Conversations About Infrastructure Spending Through Local Fuel Taxes: Health and economic crises may have moved the conversation away from Michigan’s core infrastructure needs, but that need has not diminished, and neither is the price. Allowing local counties to collect fuel taxes or registration fees to fund local road repairs, as suggested by Representative Jack O’Malley, is a manageable step that can be taken now. Local taxes on option fuels would give counties the ability to pursue local improvements and invest in roads and bridges community by community.
Encourage Broadband Access Statewide: One of the lessons of the pandemic is that we need to equip Michiganders to work or learn anywhere in the state, and that requires high internet access. reliable throughput throughout the state. Achieving this will require incentives for the private sector to invest in infrastructure in areas, especially rural areas, which currently make no business sense.
There will not be a single solution, party or idea that will allow Michigan to recover from COVID-19. It will take a unified effort from elected leaders to take strategic action wherever possible to accelerate the economy.
This effort cannot wait for the new legislative session. It must start as a lame duck.