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New year perfect time for ‘MI New Economy’

After a long December, it’s officially a new year, and I think we’re all joining the Counting Crows in hoping that maybe this year will be better than the last.

But, with it also being an election year, will Michigan’s Democratic governor and Republican-led Legislature be able to work together on some positive and historic investments with the billions of dollars in federal funding currently at their disposal?

It may seem like a long shot, but, if the way 2021 ended in the Capitol is any indication, bipartisanship, common ground, and compromise can be found.

The Legislature and governor worked together to negotiate and pass nearly $1 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to help support Michigan’s families, communities, and small businesses during the ongoing health crisis, including: $150 million for COVID-19 school testing, $140 million for rental assistance, and $36.3 million to help communities tackle lead, fund water distribution, inspections, blood testing, and more.

The governor and Legislature also acted swiftly last month to pass $1 billion for a new job-creation incentives fund aimed at recruiting and retaining auto manufacturers and other critical industries and making big industrial sites shovel-ready for construction.

But, while corporate subsidies continue to get the most attention from policymakers, there are many other things that corporations — and the workers and consumers who sustain them — depend on and desire.

As the League and some of our partners recently wrote about this latest effort, “Everyone in Michigan wants a strong recovery from the (coronavirus) pandemic that includes better jobs and wages, healthier communities, and a thriving future. We believe that instead of just more corporate incentives, providing robust educational opportunities, making transportation more reliable and sustainable, ensuring our water is safe, supporting families, and providing better social and built infrastructure pays off.”

The governor and Legislature were able to find common ground to address some needs of some Michigan businesses. There’s already been widespread bipartisan support for business subsidies. There should be equally widespread and bipartisan support for the investments to help people and workers, and we hope our policymakers can maintain that same urgency and commitment on additional spending of state American Rescue Plan dollars.

And, luckily, the governor already has a proposal that’s “shovel-ready” and will have a significant, positive impact on Michigan’s people and businesses: The MI New Economy Plan (michigan.gov/mineweconomy/).

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled her $2.1 billion MI New Economy plan at the Mackinac Policy Conference in September, and it contains some of the Michigan League for Public Policy’s key priorities.

As ways to reduce poverty and support racial and economic equity, we have and continue to be supportive of Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners to help workers pursue better opportunities and ways to make child care more affordable for families while supporting child care workers and providers, as well. Those proposals are particularly relevant to rural communities and Alpena-area residents, as are MI New Economy’s proposed investments in expanding broadband internet access and providing affordable housing.

State lawmakers have already shown that they can put political differences aside when the economy is at stake. And, thanks to the federal American Rescue Plan Act, our elected officials already have billions of dollars in hand to address our state’s needs — they just need to keep finding agreement on what to do with it.

In our households and at our jobs, good things always happen when we work together, and the same continues to be true in our state Capitol.

MI New Economy provides a historic opportunity to make some major improvements around the state. As such, it should be the next area of bipartisan agreement and the next phase of the state’s economic development efforts — investing money in our people as much as our businesses.

MI New Economy provides the blueprint for a better Michigan for all, and it should be a top policy priority in the new year.

Alex Rossman is external affairs director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

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