This column originally appeared in the Detroit News.
Imagine a politician who lacked the courage to be honest with voters during an election about her intention to push massive taxes on the working class. Imagine she springs the scheme on voters within weeks of being sworn in. Now imagine this politician simultaneously had a track record of supporting corporations pilfering the public treasury for their own gain.
It’s the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer story.
Just weeks ago, the governor called for a massive $2.5 billion tax hike on Michigan motorists. It’s a plan that would hit most those who can afford it least; make Michigan’s gas tax the highest in the nation but ensure no interruption in the governor’s preferred method of economic development – corporate welfare.
Some of the state’s biggest business advocacy groups have quietly (and some publicly) embraced the plan. Why? When you look closely, some members of these “business groups” get dedicated funds if the governor’s tax hike moves forward.
When it comes to big business and Lansing, always look carefully; there is a world of difference between entrepreneurs and crony capitalists. We need more of the former and a helluva lot fewer of the later.
Whitmer’s campaign trail rhetoric (she called accusations she’d raise the gas tax by far less “nonsense”) hardly matches her behavior in the governor’s office — then again, when you look at her record in the legislature, it’s no surprise at all.
As a lawmaker, Whitmer rarely met a corporate tax giveaway she didn’t love. In fact, a look at her voting record on MichiganVotes.org shows she voted to give your tax dollars to big businesses dozens of times.
She voted repeatedly to support the Hollywood film tax credit, a scheme that gave away $500 million tax dollars — cash skimmed from Michigan workers — to celebrity big shots. She even voted in 2014 to extend the program indefinitely (the Republican majority in the state Senate stopped her). This was at a time road funding was being slashed.
Whitmer voted to give Michigan workers’ tax dollars and additional tax breaks to corporations near Detroit’s airports.
Whitmer voted to give $50 million — your dollars — to a company that made electric car batteries.
Whitmer voted to give millions in tax subsidies to solar panel manufacturers.
The list just goes on and on, and the Governor’s not backing away from it.
Last fall on the campaign trail, she repeatedly extolled the virtues of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. — a government agency that exists to give tax dollars to big corporations — and promised as Governor that she would “unleash” it to give away more of your money to even more businesses.
These are the kind of moves that create a system where companies like Ford and GM, two of the state’s largest and most profitable businesses, rake in tens of billions of dollars and pay little to no federal tax, while families just scraping by pay through the nose at the pump.
Study after study, and experience after experience (Amazon, Foxconn), demonstrate corporate tax giveaways don’t work — except for politicians looking for a photo-op.
In rolling out a regressive $2.5 billion gas tax hike, Whitmer has issued a decree that in her administration, working moms and dads will always be the losers.
Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.