Transformational brownfield bills are a ‘rebate for the rich’

April 5, 2017


The only thing the "transformational brownfield plan" attempts to "transform" is the idea that our public funds should remain for public use. Instead, this plan creates a corporate welfare package for a few very wealthy individuals — most immediately, Dan Gilbert in Detroit and the Shaheen family in Saginaw. This is dangerous. Senate bills 111-115, a reintroduction from last legislative session, are gaining traction. They have already been passed by the Michigan Senate and have been referred to the House Committee on Tax Policy.


These bills would allow the state to reimburse private developers for developing brownfield sites — like a rebate program for the rich. Historically, this was done through a tax credit, not a reimbursement. A reimbursement is different than a credit and directly takes dollars out of the state and local general funds.


Furthermore, it is a tax scheme of direct cash reimbursements that has never been tried or tested in Michigan. We cannot afford to deliberately cripple our cities by transferring public tax dollars to private entities for benefits that are unclear at best. We are setting a bad precedent for shifting public dollars into private pockets; essentially, robbing the public to further enrich the wealthy. This is not progress or an effective strategy to revitalize cities through development.


Federal funding available to clean up brownfields — sites polluted and abandoned by private companies — began with public benefit in mind at least. (Even though it's still ironic that public money is used to clean up private, profit-driven pollution.) 


What's worse here is that this bill expands the clear and strict EPA definition of brownfield to include foreclosed, dangerous, and "blighted" property. This bill's far broader definition opens the door for corporations to get public money to privatize huge chunks of publicly owned land — in a city where residents cannot easily access land and are losing their property at alarming rates. Again, our resources and public lands are being turned into commodities to be brokered.


It isn't quite coercion for billionaires to threaten not to spend money on these projects unless we pay them, but it's close enough for me. It's the same basic claim the wealthy make when they take public money to finance the private sports arenas. We continue to see our elected officials working extra hard to create a "good climate for business" that leads to disinvestment in public infrastructure and tax incentives to the detriment of cities, while enriching private business and further entrenching poverty. And our cities are told by legislators to use their bootstraps to survive.


Read More: 



Please reload

Featured News

Rashida Tlaib Elected to Represent Michigan’s 13th District

November 7, 2018

Please reload


Please reload


Please reload