Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, has teamed up with Republican lawmakers to build an arsenal of corporate welfare, with which they all hope to bribe companies to stay in or come to their state, even as it is beset by rising crime, middling regulatory and tax environments, a poor COVID-19 response, and more.
The newest detail here is that the state's corporate welfare officials, in pitching this bill to state lawmakers, is telling them to sign nondisclosure agreements.
This is cronyism and corporate welfare. It’s utterly corrupt for legislators to sign nondisclosure agreements connected to bills under consideration. These legislators are supposed to work for the people of Michigan, not secretively cut deals for a few corporate interests. https://t.co/YFWNJqHNrJ— Justin Amash (@justinamash) December 9, 2021
Here’s what’s going on. Whitmer and Republican lawmakers have crafted legislation to create multiple new funds that the governor and her appointees can use to pay off businesses for coming to or staying in Michigan: the Strategic Outreach Attraction Reserve Fund, the Critical Industry Fund, and the Michigan Strategic Site Readiness Fund.
Many states have similar slush funds, whereby politicians and bureaucrats can give special favors to politically desirable corporations while keeping taxes high for the less politically favored businesses.
Such funds have not been shown to help states' economies, and they are an obvious opportunity for corruption and self-dealing.
But here's the bizarre part, as reported by Michigan Advance:
“House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) declined to tell reporters if he signed an NDA. Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) confirmed to the Detroit News earlier this week that he did sign an NDA from the quasi-governmental Michigan Economic Development Corp.”
MEDC, it appears, is already talking with some big corporations that want handouts that state law does not yet allow. That means these laws that Whitmer and the MEDC are supporting are being framed as neutral funds, but really, the lawmakers have specific corporations in mind they plan to subsidize.
So, there's a big pile of cash with someone's name on it, but lawmakers refuse to tell the public who the lucky someone is. That’s bipartisanship for you.