Michigan Democrats spend over $1 billion in spending

LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Michigan lawmakers will allocate $200 million out of about $1 billion in spending on an Upper Peninsula paper mill, while also allocating more money to the state’s Economic Development Fund.

The bill, passed by the new Democrat-controlled Legislature late Thursday night, includes a $946 million spending plan and an additional $146 million to complete last year’s budget, bringing total spending to nearly $1.1 billion.

Nearly $200 million in grants will be made available for upgrades at Escanaba Mill, located on the Upper Peninsula and operated by Swedish papermaker Billerud. The Company intends to begin manufacturing a more technologically advanced paper product that will be used as packaging for pharmaceuticals and healthcare, cosmetics and beverages.

The funding for the Escanaba mill comes after the Michigan Strategic Fund last month approved a 15-year tax break to support Billerud’s planned project at the paper mill, which is expected to cost the Swedish company nearly $1 billion in investment bring in and retain at least 1,240 jobs in the region.

The passage of the supplementary budget on Thursday came a day after Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered a state of the state address that focused heavily on economic development and job preservation in the state.

Marquette Rep. Jenn Hill called the paper mill project a “generational investment” and said after the Lower Peninsula received several economic development projects over the past year, it’s time for the Upper Peninsula “to take a turn.”

“The governor spoke last night about giving young people a reason to stay in Michigan. A big part of that is economic opportunity,” Hill said. “Let’s invest in the Upper Peninsula and in the future of green manufacturing in our state.”

The bill also earmarks an additional $150 million for Michigan’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve, bringing the fund’s remaining total to $890 million.

Republicans criticized the nightly spending bill as hasty and mysterious. Clarkston Rep. Mike Harris said Democrats planned the bill “behind closed doors” and “waited until the last minute to make it public.”

“Democrats are beginning their new majority by shoving an enormous, secret spending bill down the throats of the Michigan people,” Republican House Speaker Matt Hall said in a statement. “They gave the public and their elected officials virtually no time to read the ridiculously crowded plan before the vote.”

During the December Lame Duck session, talks between Whitmer and the Republican-led legislature stalled before any supplementary budget could be passed. Democrats took full control of both houses this year and a budget surplus that would grow to over $9 billion by fall.

The Democrat-led Legislature also worked Thursday to pass tax breaks that include increasing the state’s earned income tax credit to 30% of the federal credit, compared to the current 6%, and repealing the retirement tax. Final passage of both bills is expected sometime next week.


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