Michigan International Speedway is now a two-time winner when it comes to state subsidies.
The state’s official tourism site announced it was hosting the Pure Michigan NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at MIS on Aug. 21. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation paid $972,500 for the one-year sponsorship deal. And MIS already qualifies for tax credits through the Michigan business tax since 2007. The state reimburses the racetrack for every dollar it spends on infrastructure improvements on areas such as the infield or the grandstand area. The state estimates this will be $1.2 million for 2011.
“They are spending money on something that they are already spending money on,” said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “I don’t think the state should have an MIS-specific policy. The state should not be taking money from everyone else to give to a politically favored business.”
MEDC spokeswoman Michelle Begnoche said in an email that the funding came from “corporate funding” and that no state funding was used in the sponsorship. She said the $972,500 came from the MEDC’s investment income and money that the Indian gaming casinos gave the MEDC as part of a deal for the privileged gaming status that state government confers upon them.
Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy for the Mackinac Center, said the MEDC was “splitting hairs.”
He pointed to a Senate Fiscal Agency 2009 report on tribal gaming issues. That report notes that the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that the tribal gaming contributions were “public funds not subject to appropriation.”