News Story

Whitmer Approved $4.51 Billion In Corporate Handouts, Denounces Opponents’ ‘Giveaways’

Dem candidate for governor says she may ‘unleash’ more if elected

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer has portrayed herself as an opponent of tax giveaways to wealthy corporate interests while attacking Republicans for supporting them.

For example, in a recent ad, Whitmer says this about GOP candidate Bill Schuette: “But for years, Bill Schuette’s handed tax giveaways to the super-rich, putting Michigan taxes out of whack.”

In his six years as a state senator, Schuette voted in favor of bills authorizing $888.8 million in taxpayer-funded cash handouts to developers and corporations. But in her 14 years as a legislator, Whitmer voted for at least $4.51 billion in such giveaways, plus hundreds of millions more in tax breaks and other incentives for businesses.

While campaigning, Whitmer has given indications that she would look favorably upon similar giveaways as governor.

In a primary election debate, Whitmer said she wanted to “unleash the MEDC.” The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the agency created by former Republican Gov. John Engler that recruits select businesses for taxpayer-funded subsidies and administers them.

Whitmer’s votes authorizing handouts to businesses can be found on a spreadsheet produced for a recent Mackinac Center for Public Policy analysis of legislators’ votes on the bills approving selective cash subsidies, including refundable business tax credits, going back to 2001. It shows that Whitmer opposed less than 2 percent of the authorizations that came before her. Since 2001, only 11 of 498 Michigan legislators who have held office since then voted to authorize more than Whitmer's $4.51 billion.

That list also includes Schuette’s votes starting in 2001 for bills meeting the same criteria, totaling $224.2 billion. But during his four years in the state Senate before then, he also voted for bills authorizing $660 million in giveaways. These bills became Public Acts 44, 143 and 144 of 2000, and Public Act 120 of 1999. Schuette voted yes on all such authorizations that came before him.

Whitmer didn't respond to an email seeking comment.