Brownfield Credits Are No Level Playing Field

Writing in the Detroit Free Press, three advocates of selective government tax credits give Gov. Rick Snyder credit for streamlining state government, but believe his administration has “missed the mark” by working to eliminate the brownfield and historic tax credit programs.

The co-authors write that these programs “provide critical incentives for private developers to invest in our state’s central cities” and go on to note that the tax credit programs “create incentives for private investment.” They also note a study from the Michigan chapter of the National Brownfield Association that claims the state returns 10 cents on the dollar for every dollar given to these companies in the form of a tax rebate.

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Gov. Snyder has proposed eliminating or greatly reducing Michigan’s failed economic development programs partly in order to use that money to reduce the state’s overall business tax burden. 

But the writers of this article seem to still rely on the idea that the positive economic impact of reducing the tax burden only happens when government bureaucrats get to pick the winners and losers. In conclusion, they write, “The bottom line? Michigan’s brownfield and historic tax credit programs work. They facilitate private investment. They have a great return on investment. They revitalize our communities like no other tool can. They are fair — a viable project either meets program criteria or it does not, regardless of size, location or political connections.”

There is nothing “fair” about unelected boards deciding which companies pay higher taxes and which companies pay less. Real fairness would dictate that government rules be a level playing field; ensuring that all companies compete on equal grounds — whether the ground is brown or not.