Editorial: Dysfunction wins again in state Capitol

The Detroit News, DetroitNews

Michigan’s best hope of landing 5,000 or so high-tech manufacturing jobs now rests with the governing process in Wisconsin and the other states with which it’s competing being just as dysfunctional as it is here.

The state House began Tuesday with good prospects of having enough votes to pass the so-called Good Jobs package, which would offer tax incentives to big companies to bring large numbers of new jobs to Michigan.

The package is seen as essential to landing the factory that Foxconn, a Taiwanese assembler of Apple iPhones, is looking to locate in the Midwest. Michigan and Wisconsin are said to be the leading choices.

Many Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Tom Leonard, are philosophically opposed to offering corporate incentives. Still, Leonard agreed to bring the bill to the floor if backers were confident they had the 56 votes necessary for passage.

They were, at least for a while. Forty-three Republicans and more than 13 Democrats were lined up to cast yes votes.

And then everything fell off the dock.

Rumors began swirling in the House that Gov. Rick Snyder had cut secret deals with Democratic lawmakers to block any further legislation affecting labor unions for the remaining 18 months of his term if they would support the jobs bill.

Leonard, unable to discern exactly what was promised in exchange for the Democratic votes, yanked the bill back until he can meet face-to-face with the governor.

That meeting couldn’t happen Tuesday, or anytime during this final week before the Legislature leaves for its summer recess, because Snyder is attending the Paris Air Show as part of a European trade mission.

These missions have been effective in bringing jobs to Michigan. But the governor called the jobs bill his top priority. He should have been around to shepherd it through. Had the governor been in the Capitol to explain his deal-making, chances are high the legislation would have passed.

As it was, his surrogates neglected to communicate with their fellow Republicans about the horse-trading that was going on with Democrats, who kept upping their list of demands. In short, Snyder’s team made a mess of things.

The legislation, approved by the Senate in March, is crafted to appease those Republicans who are opposed to what they see as corporate welfare.

It would allow a company to keep half of new employee income taxes if it creates at least 500 jobs paying the average regional wage. The Michigan Strategic Fund could approve up to 15 projects a year, and the total incentives commitment could never top $200 million.

It’s likely essential to capturing the Foxconn development, but also to several other large projects for which Michigan is competing. Given how important it is to their governor, the Republican caucus should have given it greater consideration. Snyder should not have to work so hard to get a job-creating measure through a GOP-controlled Legislature.

But he shouldn’t have disappeared at a critical moment, either. Or at least he should have established surer lines of communication with House leaders while he is away.

Hopes are that the House will take up the bill when it convenes in a one-day session on July 12, its last meeting of the summer. The Foxconn deal will not likely wait for lawmakers to reconvene in the fall.

Snyder should make sure to be in the House that day to explain whatever steps he has to take to assemble the votes necessary for passing this important measure.