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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of February 25, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

On Wednesday Governor Rick Snyder closed all "nonessential" state offices because by noon 14 inches of snow had fallen.  The State Emergency Operations Center remains open as it responds to the Flint water crisis.  Secretary of State Ruth Johnson also closed all Department of State offices in the Lower Peninsula. The House and Senate canceled session for Thursday.  The Senate met Wednesday morning and senators starting leaving town around noon while the House held a very short session at 1:30 PM and they too headed out. 

This week news broke about lawmakers inadvertently giving auto insurers a tax break worth $80 million a year.  Now, the legislature wants to end it and use it to either bail out Detroit's state managed school district or to address other priorities at a time Flint's water emergency could cost the state at least $236 million over this fiscal year and next.  Other possible funding source for Detroit is Michigan's settlement with tobacco companies, a well worn tactic when the state is in a pinch for cash.

House Appropriations Committee Chair, Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, is pushing to fix the 2012 law so insurance companies no longer are eligible for the tax credits they were given unintentionally.  Auto insurers are fighting attempts to reverse the tax credit.  Industry leaders, upset that insurers pay disproportionately higher business taxes compared with other sectors, concede it was handed out by mistake but warn drivers' premiums will go up.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) in their "New Market Developer" newsletter, Forest Products Edition provided an article about the Michigan State Trade Export Promotion Program. MI-STEP is a grant program, funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), providing direct reimbursement to qualified small and medium sized companies to develop or expand export related activities.  The MI-STEP program is designed to spur job creation by empowering Michigan small and medium size enterprises to export their products. 

The program has three primary objectives:  Increase the dollar value of Michigan exports, expand the number of Michigan companies that export and introduce current exporters to new foreign markets and buyers.  The program provides 50% reimbursement to qualified small and medium sized companies for allowable expenses related to export marketing activities.  Eligible companies may qualify for up to $12,000 reimbursement during a fiscal year to grow their export operations in Michigan.  Contact Donna LaCourt (517) 614-5518 lacourtd2@michigan.gov for more information.

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