Michigan’s draft population plan: Better schools, high-tech jobs, new taxes
- Michigan is scrambling to address a stagnant population and worker shortages
- A 40-page draft plan focuses on education, high-paying jobs and ‘vibrant and inclusive’ communities
- A leading Republican said it’s DOA if it relies on tax changes
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s task force on Michigan’s stagnant population is advocating an overhaul of the state’s education system, two free years of college and heavy infrastructure investments in a draft report.
A 40-page draft, first reported on Thursday by the MIRS subscription news service, by the Growing Michigan Together Council also calls for investments in high-paying jobs and “vibrant and inclusive communities” as part of an approach to make Michigan a “top-ten growth state by 2050.”
Some of the proposals have been previously reported, and some details are vague. Officials were quick to stress that the draft document remains subject to change. A final version is due Dec. 15.
"They're still in craft mode," said Brittany Hill, a spokesperson for the Growing Michigan Together Council within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
"There is nothing final.”
The draft comes as Whitmer and other Michigan leaders get serious about decades of population stagnation. The state, which is still the 10th most populous in the nation, has ranked 49th in growth since 1990, ahead of only West Virginia, prompting job shortages statewide and other looming financial and quality-of-life challenges.
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While any draft is not final, the task force’s recommendations clearly would involve spending by the Democratic governor and Legislature, which immediately drew opposition from Republicans.
House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, said the report would be “dead on arrival” if it includes “high-tax recommendations.”
“It’s just a long wish list for new revenues — tax hikes on Michiganders,” he said in a statement.
The report offers many bold changes, including:
- Schools: Create a more stringent education standard that Michigan students would be expected to meet to graduate from high school, adding a 13th year of school for those who don’t meet that new standard; extending the school day and school year options for K-12 students and funding incentives for highly accomplished teachers to work in rural areas.
- Cities: Provide rapid transit connecting downtowns to the suburbs, building out trails and sidewalks that connect neighborhoods, and providing accessible green spaces.
- Economic development: Use “novel programs and incentives” to retain college graduates and target high-tech, high-wage industries; refresh economic and workforce development incentives, including revisiting the investment threshold and the research and development tax credit.
- Ditch the gas tax: Move to a “miles-traveled fee,” used in some states to replace the gas tax because electric vehicle owners don’t pay the tax that repairs and improves roads. The plan also calls for adding tolls to fund roads.
- Tax changes: Overhaul the 1978 Headlee Amendment and Proposal A of 1994, which limits how quickly local communities can raise property taxes, which hobbled school funding in some communities and has limited local government revenue recovery from the Great Recession.
- Site readiness: Develop better site development for businesses, an effort that was initiated in 2022 with the $2 billion Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) fund, which recently was repositioned as the Make it in Michigan Fund.
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