An extension of a special tax favor for Michigan International Speedway was approved by the Michigan House on June 10 and sent to the Senate, but not without a dozen votes of opposition from both Republicans and Democrats. Critics from both parties used the opportunity to make public statements denouncing the policy of state government giving preferential perks to favored businesses. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. is the embattled state agency that runs the program for granting the special tax perks. It is under fire after recently creating a deal for a company run by a convicted embezzler, and has been the subject of a recent study from the Mackinac Center showing that the state's policy of granting special tax favors has substantially failed to provide promised jobs and economic growth.
MIS is already eligible for a multimillion-dollar tax credit for a period extending from 2008 to 2012. According to a Michigan House Fiscal Agency memo, the existing credit was designed to apply to capital improvements at the super speedway, such as renovations to the grandstands and infield. House Bill 6235 provides a four-year extension for the credit, through the 2016 tax year and requires MIS to make $32 million in capital improvements in order to claim the credit.
State Rep. Fred Miller, D-Mt. Clemens, was one of the votes against HB 6235.
"I'm finally starting to understand how this works," said Miller, according to the MIRS newsletter (www.mirsnews.com, subscription required). "Someone calls their lobbyist and says 'I'm paying for a lobbyist, so I shouldn't have to pay any taxes at all.'"
"It's neither fair nor economically sound to tax working class and middle class people, and to impose the onerous Michigan Business Tax on small businesses, to pay for massive subsidies to special interests," chimed in Rep. Justin Amash, R-Grand Rapids, in one of his regular Facebook vote explanations from the floor of the House.
But, according to MIRS, supporters of the legislation argued that special tax perks for auto racing are better than the special tax perks that go to other sporting events.
"MIS creates more tax revenue for the state of Michigan than the Super Bowl did while it was here a couple of years ago," stated Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch. "And it does it several weekends a year, not just once."
The National Football League was the indirect beneficiary of another special tax arrangement created by the Michigan Legislature in 2004. More than $1 million in hotel taxes levied on metro Detroit businesses and originally intended for work on Cobo Hall were diverted to the Super Bowl XL host committee.
The HFA states that the special tax deal would reduce MIS's business tax bite by as much as $530,000 in 2012 and then by as much as $1.58 million per year for the years from 2013 through 2016.
The bill was approved on a vote of 92-12. Four Republicans and eight Democrats cast "no" votes.
The Michiganvotes.org roll call is noted below. Contact information for all lawmakers is available at www.MichCapCon.com/9313.
Lawmakers voting IN FAVOR of extending a special tax perk for a super speedway:
Lawmakers voting AGAINST extending a special tax perk:
Lawmakers who DID NOT VOTE:
|Bennett (D)||Espinoza (D)||Huckleberry (D)||Johnson (D)|