The first three years of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration have produced the most gubernatorial vetoes since the mid-2000s and the fewest number of new laws since the late 1950s – before Michigan had a full-time Legislature.
Don’t look for that pattern to change in 2022, as political pressures magnified by new legislative district boundaries will likely spur legislators to spend less time legislating and more time raising money and meeting their (new) constituents. But there should still be a window early in the year to get a few positive accomplishments done before campaign season heats up.
While the political theme this year will be the battles for the executive branch and legislative majorities, the substantive theme will be the revival of Michigan’s business climate.
Last fall, Michigan leaders suffered the humiliation of losing Ford’s electric vehicle facilities to two southern states with better tax and economic environments and responded by giving GM another billion dollars in corporate welfare to keep its EV investments here. Michigan leaders should now be acutely aware of the high fiscal cost of losing their focus on economic competitiveness.
Among the first items up will be various proposals for tax relief, including reductions in the personal and corporate income tax rates and an increase in the personal property tax exemption for small businesses. While many Michigan businesses and families continue to suffer the financial effects of 2020 COVID lockdowns, the state’s coffers are surging from gushers of federal spending and transfer payments. Taxpayers deserve a break.
Transportation infrastructure always ranks as a top consideration for companies choosing new locations, and Michigan’s abysmal roads are a major disadvantage when recruiting or retaining businesses. Throughout the 2010s, our state increased its investment in roads almost to the point where roads were being repaired faster than they were falling apart, but that progress stopped in 2019. With billions in federal ARPA funds available, there is no excuse for not resuming that improvement.
Repealing harmful or unnecessary regulations — especially in the realm of occupational licensure — plus improving health care access through competition, and ensuring Michiganders’ access to affordable and reliable energy, are other key priorities to address this year.
Michigan has a lot of policy work to do if it aspires to be as organically attractive to entrepreneurs and job creators as its southern competitors. As always, the Mackinac Center team stands ready to supply policy ideas to those state leaders willing to invest their efforts.