Elected officials today regularly try to woo large companies into locating to their state or city by offering them special tax treatment or subsidizing them in some way. States and cities compete with each other in this regard — Michigan is no exception — and this competition makes national headlines when well-known companies choose to relocate or expand. With this in mind, one might reasonably assume that publicly funded economic development is a long-standing, firmly established practice. But that’s not the case in Michigan.
This report chronicles the history of Michigan Supreme Court decisions on this issue. It is not a formal legal review of the case law, but rather a historical account of the most important cases, spanning from Michigan’s earliest days as a new state to the ratification of the current constitution in 1963. The narrative that unfolds will surprise those not familiar with Michigan’s unique experience with taxpayer-funded corporate handouts.