(The Center Square) – The Michigan Legislature on Wednesday approved a $1.3 billion spending package.
Nearly half of the approved spending would fund site preparation for Ford’s planned electric battery plant in Marshall.
The planned $630 million to prepare site development of Ford’s $3.5 billion plant is piled onto $1 billion of promised incentives for the factory. The spending aims to bring 2,500 jobs to Calhoun County, which has lost about 2,000 jobs over the last 20 years.
Lawmakers approved House Bill 4016 on a vote of 22-16. Senate Democrats hold a 20-18 majority. The bill also aims to deposit $170 million into the state's business attraction fund.
The state had asked for $750 million more for factory site preparation, including $330 million to the Michigan Department of Transportation for road improvements; $224 million for pad-ready site improvements; $100 million for water and wastewater improvements; and $75 million for land acquisition. Other projected spending includes $15 million for Norfolk Southern rail improvements, $5 million for building inspections, and $300,000 to fund fiber optics.
HB 4016 also aims to spend:
- $75 million for health care worker recruitment, retention, and training.
- $67 million for the nursing home workforce.
- $60 million for community and neighborhood initiatives.
- $25 million for water affordability.
- $10 million for a community violence initiative.
Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, welcomed the spending plan.
“These significant investments reflect our continued commitment to funding much-needed services in our communities”, Brinks said in a statement. “With the passage of this legislation, we’re boosting efforts to bring good-paying, high-quality jobs to the state while also taking this historic opportunity to zero in on the housing gap, water affordability, violence intervention, disaster recovery, and so much more. I’m proud of what we accomplished with bipartisan support.”
General fund dollars accounted for $828 million of spending, with $499 million in federal money, about $5 million in private revenue, and another $5 million in state-restricted revenue.
Some Republicans opposed the bill. For example, Sen. Mark Huizenga, R-Walker, called the bill a “massive giveaway of historic proportions.”
Rep Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, voted against the bill because he said it “does not make good economic sense.”
“Over the next 20 years, the investment is expected to return less than the state’s income and sales tax revenue than the state’s overall investment,” Albert said.
Albert said the deal was light on details, including how long Ford must take to create much less retain the 2,500 promised jobs to receive the subsidy, if there are clawback provisions if the factory fails, and if there are any safeguards to prevent the Communist Chinese Party from using this deal to threaten U.S. national security.
Ford is using a Chinese battery company, CATL, as a “technical service provider” for the plant. Ford has promised CATL won’t receive taxpayer money, but lawmakers say the Chinese government will still benefit from the deal.
“The Chinese government has a horrendous human rights record, including accusations of torture and forced detention where people are forced to abandon their language and religion,” Albert said.
Albert said the total taxpayer cost for the Ford factory would be about $1.7 billion, or roughly $680,000 for each direct job created. He said the average annual pay for the jobs is about 15% below the median household income of Calhoun County at $45,136.
HB 4016 will return to the House for further consideration.