This is the last week the state Legislature is scheduled to meet in 2015. Republican leaders hope to make progress on some big issues.
Legislative leaders will try to advance bills that would give tax breaks to data centers. The goal is to attract a massive data farm to the Grand Rapids area. Supporters estimate the project would bring in $5 billion in new investments and at least a thousand jobs to Michigan over the next decade. But plenty of Republicans and Democrats oppose targeting one industry for big tax exemptions. They say there’s no guarantee the company will create the number of jobs it says it will. “In the past, those kind of promises haven’t come true and those special tax deals in the past have been repealed. Some of us just don’t want to go down that path again,” said state Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Midland).
Lawmakers are also debating a major re-write of Michigan’s energy policies. Critics say the current legislation favors utilities by getting rid of alternative energy providers. Glenn, who is also one of the leading Republican opposition voices on this issue, says he believes the bills are losing support among Republicans like himself. “The momentum at this point seems to be against these re-monopolizing bills,” said Glenn. “I just think the utilities are having a hard time convincing people – no matter how many millions of dollars they spend – that free market principals we know work for all other levels of human activity and economic activity somehow magically don’t apply to electricity.”
Supporters of the energy legislation say it’s necessary to keep energy costs down and make sure consumers have reliable power. Any bills that don’t pass this year can still be taken up in 2016.