Whitmer ‘Tired Of ... Corporate Tax Giveaways’ But Voted For Dozens

Don’t tell progressives, but Dem legislators are among corporate welfare's best friends in Lansing

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer has tried to play both sides of the fence when it comes to her position on corporate welfare.

The candidate debuted a new 100-second campaign commercial on Thursday. In the video, Whitmer says she fought against Gov. Rick Snyder’s “corporate tax giveaways.”

“Because I’m tired of corporations getting more tax breaks, while you get hit with a retirement tax,” Whitmer said.

Yet earlier in March, at a Michigan Economic Developers Association forum, Whitmer had a completely different stance on giving subsidies and tax breaks to businesses selected by political appointees.

MiBiz.com reported: “Democratic candidate and former State Senator Gretchen Whitmer gave perhaps the most full-throated endorsement of ramping up the use of targeted tax incentives, saying that if elected she would ‘unleash the MEDC’ to pursue a ‘52-week jobs blitz’ in her first year in office. In many ways, that strategy shares similarities with the incentive-based policies of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm — whose efforts were derailed by the economic downturn, according to Whitmer."

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The MEDC is the state agency in charge of Michigan’s corporate welfare programs.

MiBiz.com also reported Whitmer saying that "under Snyder, the state has eschewed many economic development tools such as brownfield and historic redevelopment tax credits in favor of a strategy that embraces lower and simpler taxes."

"These are crucial pieces of the toolbox that communities need across the state," Whitmer said of the targeted credits. "I think the approach right now in Lansing has been a drag on Michigan’s comeback."

MiBiz.com continued: "Whitmer’s proposal to bring back a variety of tax credits and more targeted incentives stands in contrast to her GOP opponents as well as her fellow Democrats seeking the nomination in the August primary."

Whitmer didn’t respond to an email sent to her campaign asking for her stance on corporate welfare. But her voting history shows clear support for giving state taxpayer subsidies to particular corporations and developers selected by politicians and political appointees.

For example, Whitmer voted in favor of creating a “Next Michigan Development Corporation” program that gives cash and tax breaks focused primarily on owners of businesses near Detroit’s airports, dubbed the "aerotropolis."

She voted in favor of giving $50 million to a company that wanted to make electric car batteries in 2011. In the 2000s she voted to give taxpayer subsidies worth hundreds of millions of dollars to solar panel and electric car battery makers.

And in 2008, Whitmer voted for a state film incentive program incentive program that eventually gave $500 million in Michigan taxpayer dollars to Hollywood producers. In 2014 she voted to extend the program indefinitely, but the Legislature elected at the end of that year instead terminated film subsidies the following spring. During Whitmer’s tenure in the state House and Senate, she and her Democratic colleagues were nearly unanimous in favor of these and many more special interest subsidies and tax breaks.

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Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

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