Progress on public investments?

Finally some good news on the public investment front. As you know, our research has led us to believe that public investments in preparing, retaining and attracting talent are the key to positioning Michigan and its citizens for prosperity in a flattening world. What has been so frustrating for years is that business and political leadership in the state talk about the importance of college attainment as a – if not the – key to Michigan’s future success and then advocate/adopt policies that take us in the wrong direction. Even worse has been the absence of anyone willing to put on the table an alternative to the tax  cuts/small government agenda that has dominated our public policy for more than a decade. That may be changing.

Kudos to the Senate Democrats – led by Gretchen Whitmer – who have just released their Michigan 2020 plan. It makes college attainment the state’s economic development priority. It would provide substantial tuition payments dierctly to students to pay for a college education at Michigan’s universities  and community colleges. The annual investment would be $1.8 billion. And it is more than paid for. The Senate Democrats should be praised for advocating for more revenues. Through closing tax loopholes that don’t produce jobs, collecting sales tax on internet purchases (a la Indiana) and reforming the state contracting process. A major step in the right direction!

John Austin, chair of the State Board of Education, in a Dome article lays out a more expansive public investment agenda in an article that provides ideas on how to use the state budget surplus to grow the Michigan economy long term. Worth reading! He proposes increased spending in the areas of education, innovation, infrastuture, cities and the outdoors. All of which are essential to preparing Michiganders for the economy of the future and creating Michigan as a place where mobile talent wnats to live and work after college. Austin writes:

But for long-term job creation, Michigan needs more than a “business-friendly” tax and regulatory environment. We need strategic investment in Michigan’s assets that are the foundations of economic growth, and that the private sector doesn’t pay for: well educated people; strong, affordable universities driving innovation; clean lakes and rivers; modern transportation and communications infrastructure; cities with vibrant arts, culture, parks and libraries.

Also, in a reversal of course, good news on M1. Governor Snyder and Mayor Bing are back on board to make the Woodward light rail line a reality. Detroit’s business leadership and the Kresge Foundation have been great in insisting that this is an essential element to Detroit’s and the regions’ economic revival.

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