Politics

Corporate Tax Breaks, Infrastructure, and Flint’s Water Concern Michigan Voters as Democrats Debate in Detroit

Michigan expected to play a key role in deciding 2020 election

Democratic presidential candidates take part in the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate / Getty Images

As Democratic presidential candidates gather in Detroit for two nights of debates, three issues affecting Michigan voters could be featured in the debates: jobs, a gas tax, and the Flint water crisis.

Michigan Republicans are hoping to renew a tax break initially signed into law by former Republican governor Rick Snyder. The incentive allows businesses to "keep some or all of their new employees’ income tax withholdings if the companies create hundreds or thousands of good-paying jobs."

The program, known as "Good Jobs for Michigan," is set to end in December. As of April, it had awarded $57.4 million worth of tax benefits to three companies, with 1,354 jobs expected to be created within five years.

In May, the state approved $223.5 million in incentives for Fiat Chrysler over 15 years via the Good Jobs for Michigan and Michigan Business Development programs.

Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D.) has expressed opposition to policies resembling Good Jobs for Michigan.

Some conservative groups have also expressed reservations about tax breaks for big businesses citing Foxconn's failure to deliver job promises in Wisconsin after receiving a serious of large tax incentives from the state as one example of the failure of "crony capitalism."

Michigan voters are also concerned about crumbling infrastructure, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D., Mich.) has tried to address via a 45 cent gas tax.

Democratic lawmakers, however, have not backed the plan, and a majority of Michigan voters oppose the proposal. The Republican-led legislature has also voiced its opposition to the large scale gas tax increase with House Speaker Lee Chatfield calling the 45 cent increase a "nonstarter" after it was initially proposed.

As for Flint, state Attorney General Dana Nessel (D.) has dismissed all charges in the Flint water investigation against Snyder's administration. The charges were reportedly dropped because of problems with the investigation, and it is possible some of the defendants may still face charges.

The crisis began in 2014, as water for Flint residents was found to be tainted with dangerous amounts of lead. Lead levels are now said to be within the legally safe range, although residents still do not trust their water is safe.

Michigan is expected to play a crucial role in deciding the 2020 election. President Donald Trump narrowly won the state by less than 11,000 votes in 2016, the first time a Republican won the state since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) won the state in 2016, beating eventual nominee and general election loser Hillary Clinton by just under 19,000 votes. Sanders will be on the debate stage on Tuesday. He is currently polling in second place in national Democratic primary surveys.