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Poll: Michigan Voters Want Roads, Not Business Subsidies

Two-thirds of Michigan voters say they support diverting hundreds of millions in business subsidies to spend on roads, according to a recent poll.

The poll, which was commissioned by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, shows that Michiganders of all political affinities are more interested in maintaining core government services rather than in handing out tax dollars to corporations, the organization said in a press release Wednesday.

Of the 599 likely 2016 general election voters who participated in the poll, 46.1 percent identified as Democrats and 32.4 percent identified as Republicans, roughly corresponding with the party affiliations of the overall population.

Respondents were informed that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) “currently spends about $350 million on subsidies for business,” and were then asked, “Should the state continue spending $350 million on subsidies or do you believe the money should be spent on roads?” (RELATED: ‘Oz’ Film Costs Michigan Taxpayers $40 Million)

Among Democratic voters, 69.2 percent favored eliminating the subsidies, a sentiment shared by 62.9 percent of Republican voters. Just 20 percent of respondents favored maintaining the MEDC’s current budget, while 14 percent either refused to answer or had no opinion.

The MEDC was established in 1999 to stimulate job creation through economic development subsidies, yet despite the consistent willingness of lawmakers to increase its budget over the years, the agency has posted a fairly unimpressive record, leading critics to conclude that it “takes money from many taxpayers and gives it to a few.” (RELATED: Business Subsidies Coincide with FEWER Jobs in Michigan)

Recently, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported that since the MEDC’s creation, Michigan has only enjoyed 17 months with an unemployment rate below the national average. Tellingly, those happened to be the first 17 months of the agency’s existence, and were followed by a string of 174 consecutive months during which unemployment remained above the national average.

Confronted with the MEDC’s failure to revive Michigan’s moribund labor market, Republicans in the state legislature have already proposed eliminating the agency, which would come close to wiping out the state’s entire budget deficit. (RELATED: Michigan Lawmakers Consider Repealing Business Subsidies)

Defenders of the MEDC, including Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, counter that business subsidies are responsible for a recent dip in the unemployment rate, and warn that taking those subsidies away could result in an economic catastrophe as businesses flee to states with more generous policies.

According to the Mackinac Center, the poll results reveal a strong, bipartisan consensus that “corporate welfare does not work, and that the MEDC and its many so-called jobs programs should be eliminated.”

That conclusion is further supported by another recent poll, conducted jointly by the Mackinac Center and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce in May, which found that 66 percent of Michigan voters favored redirecting the state’s $50 million film subsidy toward fixing the roads.

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