State fund reform is public transportation's moment to finally 'SOAR'

Easy, cheap ways to travel will help Michiganders—and our environment—make it

Over the years, Michigan's Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve, known as SOAR, has invested over $2 billion into business attraction and job creation in the state. Now, reforms to the controversial fund would provide a more holistic approach to keeping Michiganders in state and attracting prospective residents.

A set of three bills by Reps. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) and Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park) would turn the SOAR fund into the Make it in Michigan Fund and adjust its structure.

Each year, up to $200 million would go toward a fund for public transit and other forms of innovative transportation. Up to $100 million would go toward housing and community development while up to $50 million would go toward community revitalization and vibrancy. The proposed funding would last 10 years.

The legislation passed out of the House Economic Development and Small Business Committee Tuesday in an 8-3 vote with two members abstaining. The bills were revised after suggestions by Republicans to ensure the Make it in Michigan Fund's dollars would be equitably distributed across the state. The bills will now be considered by the whole of the Michigan House.

If the bills clear the Legislature and are signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, it would likely be the largest investment in public transportation in state history. According to a report by the population advisory group Growing Michigan Together Council, Michiganders want and need public transportation—and so does our environment.

"Folks across the state want more accessible, reliable public transit but they're not getting it," said Ross Gavin, urban land use, infrastructure and transportation policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. "Now, after decades of disinvestment, we need historic, transformational investments to catch us up. The Michigan House's 'Make it in Michigan' funding proposal would provide that. To 'make it' in Michigan, we need more than jobs. We need cheap, easy access to them , the places that make Michigan great and the services individuals rely on to meet their everyday needs."

"Investments in public transportation spur economic development and attract and retain a talented workforce," Gavin added. "They also cut down on tailpipe emissions and sprawl—good for people and the environment alike. We built out our nation's highways 70 years ago and haven't stopped. Now it's public transportation's turn in Michigan. It's a moment we cannot miss."

Gavin noted the proposed community development and housing funds would also help Michiganders 'make it,' especially if the infrastructure built was energy efficient and electrified. Affordable, green homes are a core campaign of the Environmental Council's.

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  • Beau Brockett
    published this page in News 2024-06-14 14:50:26 -0400