Senate Panel Opens Hearings Into MEDC Tax Credits

LANSING—The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee today convened its first hearing on the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s process of granting tax credits after the administration recently awarded a $9.1 million business tax credit to a known felon, who was subsequently rearrested for having violated parole.

“It is clear that mistakes were made and that the MEDC is making changes that will ensure these errors don’t happen again,” said state Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, who serves as vice chair of the committee. “We need to avoid a knee jerk reaction, as so often happens in Lansing. We must get the facts in this case and find out what went wrong so that the necessary reforms can be made.”

Richard Short, chairman of Renewable and Sustainable Companies LLC (RASCO), a so-called green energy company based out of Short’s mobile home near Flint, was convicted in 2002 of embezzling money. Short was on parole when he received the $9.1 million tax credit from the state, which the company claimed it planned to use for renewable energy to provide power and other services to the developing world.

Nofs, a career law enforcement officer familiar with background checks and investigations, said it is difficult to understand how Mr. Short’s application slipped through the MEDC’s fingers.

“It is amazing that no background or reference checking was done,” said Nofs. “Whether it is $9 or $9 million, taxpayers should expect that due diligence is being done when their money is handed out for tax credits. Thankfully no money was actually paid out in this case, but it is troubling that the application made it as far as it did.

“It is my expectation that through these hearings and impending changes to the process, increased transparency and accountability will help prevent future mistakes from occurring.”
 

Public employee pay freeze fails despite public support

LANSING—A resolution that would freeze a three percent pay rate increase for unionized state employees, and save taxpayers $77.3 million, failed to reach enough votes for passage in the Senate on Wednesday. This was the second attempt by lawmakers to approve the measure.

State Sen. Mike Nofs worries not passing Senate Concurrent Resolution 35 threatens Michigan jobs.

"Our state has the worst unemployment rate in the nation. We have a state budget that is more than a billion dollars in the red. At a time when we are working to preserve every job and save every dollar, it is reasonable and necessary to reduce government spending, and this is no exception," said Nofs, R-Battle Creek. "I understand that money is tight, and knowing that made this a hard vote. But by passing this resolution to freeze the pay increase, we would also likely keep residents who have a job in a job. And that, as I said previously, is better than the possible alternative."

A recent poll conducted by the Business Leaders of Michigan indicates 75 percent of voters support freezing the 3 percent pay raise of unionized state employees. Non-union employees working for the state have already seen the same raise rescinded.

Legislation ensuring freedom of choice in personal health care decisions defeated in Senate

LANSING–A proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution that would continue to allow state residents the freedom to provide for their own health care was defeated Tuesday by opponents in the Michigan Senate.

"This would ensure the freedom of choice for an individual to make personal health care decisions on his or her own without government interference. A government controlled health care system will dramatically increase costs for taxpayers, which is especially burdensome to residents in economically-ravaged Michigan," said state Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek. "Very few decisions in life are more personal or more important than those about our health care, and residents should have the freedom to make those decisions on their own and with their doctors. It is unfortunate that, once again, politics has gotten in the way of good policy."

Senate Joint Resolution K is a constitutional amendment that requires two-thirds passage in both the state Senate and House. With all 22 Senate Republicans voting yes and a near unanimous Democrat caucus opposed, the resolution fell two votes short of passage.

SJR-K would put on the ballot a state constitutional amendment stating that no federal law shall compel any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any public or private health care system. The resolution also says that the purchase or sale of health insurance or coverage in private health care systems shall not be prohibited by federal law or rule.

Similar resolutions are being considered by 38 other states.

Sen. Nofs offers statement on vote to freeze public employee pay increase

LANSING — After the Michigan Senate failed to obtain the two-thirds vote necessary to prevent a 3 percent pay raise for unionized state employees, despite a $1.4 billion deficit, Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, offered the following comments:

"When campaigning for the Senate last fall, I was proud to have earned the support of thousands of state union employees. With their help, I was fortunate enough to become senator of the 19th District. It was therefore a difficult decision to vote today to freeze a three percent pay increase for those state employees, and one I took no joy in making. As a former state employee myself, I know first hand the terrific work our state employees do and I appreciate the importance of the bargaining process which resulted in the proposed pay increase.

"However, I ran on a platform of job creation. It is no secret that Michigan has the worst unemployment rate in the nation and has held that position for far too long. I believe that getting Michigan residents back to work and keeping those that are employed on the job is our highest priority. We cannot afford even one more worker out in the street looking for a job, wondering if he will be able to pay his bills, or if she will get called back to work or be forced to start over in a new career. This is the current economic reality of our state. These are the realities that must be faced as we tackle yet another year of significant budget shortfalls. So when considering today’s vote to freeze a pay increase, I also considered that doing so will likely help keep my constituents who have a job on the job. And that is far better than the possible alternative. That is why I voted in support of this resolution."