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www.mybaycity.com May 17, 2009
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County Commissioner Brian Elder, left, sponsor of a resolution supporting "Hire Michigan First," parleys with (left to right) Commissioner Don Tilley, U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee and State Rep. Jeff Mayes.

County Commissioner Brian Elder Leads Charge on Hire Michigan First Support

Critics Charge Legislation Makes Dealing in Michigan 'More Burdensome'

May 17, 2009       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Should companies given tax breaks in Michigan be required to hire Michigan workers first?

Here in Bay County, a strong advocate for the "Hire Michigan First" bill has been County Commissioner Brian Elder.

Sen. Gilda Z. Jacobs (D-Huntington Woods) also says "yes." She joined her Senate Democratic colleagues recently to pass legislation that will give incentives to companies to "Hire Michigan Workers First."

But critics say the legislation will make doing business in Michigan even more burdensome.

B. Candace Beeke, editor of Michigan Business Review in West Michigan, quotes "experts" commenting on the proposed legislation: "Be careful how it sounds. The Hire Michigan First legislation that mandates a company hire Michigan workers first could be more damaging than helpful to our struggling economy."

Mr. Elder, an attorney and chair of the Ways & Means Committee, says "tax exemption jobs should take Michigan skilled workers first."

The legislation, said Mr. Elder, was developed by Rep. Fred Miller, Democrat, of Mount Clemens, and provides that when companies benefit from taxpayer dollars in the form of contracts, tax breaks or other incentives, Michigan residents will have the first opportunity to be hired in these jobs.

The "Hire Michigan First" bill passed the House March 12 by a substantial majority.

Under Commissioner Elder's sponsorship, the Bay County Commission supported the legislation on April 14, and sent copies of the resolution to state officials and all 82 other Michigan counties.

The Michigan Senate May 7 approved a package of "Hire Michigan First" bills, action that was hailed by Mr. Elder and state legislators who had been backing the plan.

"Let's put Michigan people, especially young workers, to work and rebuild our economy from the bottom up," said Mr. Elder. "Companies that we help should in turn be willing to give priority to hiring our own workers.

He noted that action still needs to be taken to strengthen the "prevailing wage" provisions in the bill.

The items in the Hire Michigan First package that were approved by the Senate ensure that the millions of dollars Michigan spends in the form of tax breaks, abatements and other economic incentives in this state will be re-invested in our workers.

The bills passed would also prohibit and punish those businesses that would contract with persons not authorized to work in the United States.

Senate Democrats also fought to include measures that would strengthen the bills. They sought to ensure that companies employing Michigan workers pay them a prevailing wage so that they are able to make enough money to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. Senate Democrats also tried to correct loopholes in the bills inserted by Republicans that will make it easier for companies to not hire Michigan workers.

Additionally, three bills in the package have yet to see any Senate action:

  • Senate Bill 289, a bill that would change the current law requiring vendors who contract with the state to hire not less than 50% of Michigan residents to 100% of Michigan residents.

  • Senate Bill 288, a bill that would allow Michigan to cancel a contract or stop payment under a contract to a vendor who knowingly hires illegal aliens or who knowingly violates Michigan's Prevailing Wage Law.

  • Senate Bill 291, a bill that requires vendors under state contract to report on the number of new jobs created under the contract and the number of Michigan residents hired on that project.

    However, at the International Council of Shopping Centers West Michigan Alliance event March 3 in Grand Rapids, Right Place Inc. leader Birgit Klohs urged caution in considering the package. A requirement which eliminates tax incentives in case of non-compliance would have cost West Michigan many of its economic development gains last year, according to Ms. Klohs.

    The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce worries too that it "could have a tremendous adverse impact to attracting companies," says Jared Rodriguez, vice president of public policy and government affairs for the group.

    Those supporting the bill argue that the provisions create jobs for struggling Michigan workers. Not if companies see this as one more burdensome policy from Michigan government.

    "Senate Democrats will not back down on this issue because we know it will help boost our economy and get our workers back on the job," said Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming). "This package is a necessary first step but we need to restore critical provisions removed by the Republicans that protect Michigan workers' jobs and the wages they earn."

    The items in the Hire Michigan First package that were approved by the Senate ensure that the millions of dollars Michigan spends in the form of tax breaks, abatements and other economic incentives in this state will be re-invested in our workers. The bills passed would also prohibit and punish those businesses that would contract with persons not authorized to work in the United States.

    "It's not enough to just see products that say, 'Made in Michigan,' we want our products, buildings, and bridges to be made by Michigan," said Senator Glenn S. Anderson, a lead sponsor of the Senate package. "That's why I fought for this issue every chance I got and it's why I will continue to push for the elements of this plan that weren't included in today's vote."

    "Our state has thousands of talented workers who have been displaced due to the loss of manufacturing jobs," commented Sen. Anderson. "We have instituted programs to train these workers for new, in-demand fields such as renewable energy, but these workers cannot succeed if there aren't jobs available for them when they finish. The same goes for new college graduates, who are ready and willing to work but will leave the state if they can't find employment."

    Senate Democrats also fought to include measures that would strengthen the bills. They sought to ensure that companies employing Michigan workers pay them a prevailing wage so that they are able to make enough money to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads, said Sen. Anderson. Senate Democrats also tried to correct loopholes in the bills inserted by Republicans that will make it easier for companies to not hire Michigan workers.###

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    Dave Rogers

    Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
    respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
    (Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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