News Story

State Budget Loaded With Local, Special Interest Earmarks

'Christmas-tree' budgets return to Lansing

Michigan legislators doled out $147 million for 175 spending earmarks in the state budget they passed in September, which they call enhancement grants.

The beneficiaries are chosen in non-transparent process of lawmakers from both parties trying to add money for specific entities in their district or an area of personal interest. Such earmarks have been seen in past Michigan budgets when the state is flush with cash, appearing in year-end legislation that Lansing insiders label "Christmas tree" bills.

The number and magnitude of handouts have exploded in the wake of massive pandemic-inspired federal spending plans that include transferring money to state governments.

Michigan Capitol Confidential previously reported $11.7 million given by Lansing to local governments, arts centers, a closed hotel, and historical preservation schemes. Local spending of this nature is ordinarily covered by private contributions, local revenue from property tax and other receipts.

Among the additional special interest winners chosen to receive legislative earmarks are:

The Michigan Snowmobile and ORV Association received $1.5 million in equipment and training.

An entity called the Amity Foundation received $2 million, although official budget documents and analyses provided no explanation of what the grant is for. The entity’s Facebook page says it will develop youth leaders. There are also numerous posts about raising money for relief efforts in Palestine.

The Calvin Prison Institute in Ionia was given $1 million for prisoner education. It will allow 20 prisoners a year to obtain a bachelor's degree, according to the institute’s website. The site notes that 84 students are now enrolled, and 18 have received an associates degrees. There is no comparable data for bachelor’s degrees.

The Dearborn Community and Performing Arts Center was given $1.5 million for a new roof.

The Flint Social Club is getting $375,000 for “food entrepreneur training and mentoring.”

The Flint Food Market was given $460,000 for “food access expansion.”

The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute was given $500,000 for research into a health equity index.

A senior living community called Presbyterian Village is getting $1 million for renovation and construction of new units. There are several developments in Michigan under this name; which one is getting this money was not specified. According to a website that tracks these facilities, the cost of a shared Presbyterian Village suite starts at $5,347 a month.

The Motown Museum is getting $1 million to expand and develop a “creative hub of entrepreneurship,” according to The Detroit News.

Goudy Park Amphitheater in Wayne was earmarked $500,000 for unspecific improvements.

Degage Ministries in Grand Rapids is getting $500,000 for programming that appears unconnected to any specific purposes and outcomes.

Invest Detroit gets $500,000 for a loan financing program. Its CEO made $400,322 in total compensation in 2019.

The city of Flint was given $1 million for blight removal and clean-up funds.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.