LANSING – Several State House Democrats joined Senate Democrats in introducing legislation today to enact the Michigan 2020 Plan. The plan, which would cover the cost of college tuition for all Michigan high school graduates, has been touted by education officials, business leaders and economists as the best investment Michigan can make to rebuild our economy and bring job providers to our state.
“Higher Education isn’t just important for the young people in our state – it’s crucial for the well-being of Michigan,” said Representative Joan Bauer (Lansing). “We know that the only way to continue to move Michigan forward out of economic recession is with a highly trained and educated workforce, which is the first factor businesses take into consideration when choosing where to locate.” Bauer added, “I am concerned about the increasing cost of a college education and worry that it will soon be out of reach for many of our families. Making higher education accessible and affordable should be a top priority for Michigan.”
Under the Michigan 2020 Plan, high school graduates in Michigan, whether they attended a public or private school or home schooled, would be eligible for an annual grant for their higher education costs. The maximum amount of the grant would be equal to the median tuition level (currently $9,575/year) of all of Michigan’s public universities. Students could choose to attend any of Michigan’s community colleges or public universities and use that money toward the cost of tuition, books and other eligible expenses.
“Michigan is a state that does not have a high percentage of people with higher education degrees or training. In order to be competitive with other states in economic development, we have to have a highly trained workforce,” said Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (Muskegon). “This bill goes a long way to help us meet this goal and bring more jobs to Michigan.”
The estimated $1.8 billion per year cost of the Michigan 2020 Plan would be funded entirely by eliminating ineffective corporate tax loopholes that are carved out by special interest lobbyists, as well as cutting costs within the thousands of contracts that the state currently administers. Michigan currently grants nearly $35 billion annually in tax credits with little transparency or accountability that ensures they are effective in growing our economy or job market. Eliminating a mere 5 percent of those tax credits would more than fund the Michigan 2020 Plan.
“The Michigan 2020 Plan is a strong message that Michigan is looking to once again be a global leader,” said Rep. Steve Lindberg (Marquette). “If we want to compete for the jobs of tomorrow, we have to build the best possible workforce of tomorrow, and the Michigan 2020 Plan does just that.”
The bills would establish the Michigan 2020 grant program require that all tax credits sunset every four years, direct the state fiscal agencies to grade all tax credits based on the number of jobs they create, and assign a legislative commission to review all $35 billion worth of tax credits and recommend those that should be eliminated.
“Our area has some of the top higher education institutions around and we just need to make sure they are affordable for all of our students,” said Rep. Brandon Dillon (Grand Rapids). “By investing wisely with the Michigan 2020 Plan we can help turn our economy around and help families decide to live and work in West Michigan.”
A fifth bill in the package is expected to be introduced soon that would provide one year of assistance to current college students that had qualified for the now defunct Michigan Promise scholarship. One difference between the two programs is that the Michigan 2020 Plan would create a dedicated source of funding for the program to ensure the Legislature could not simply eliminate it to pay for other projects. More information on the Michigan 2020 Plan can be found at www.Michigan2020.com.
“Increasing access to higher education is a big part in helping us address many of the challenges we face, including job growth, public safety, and poverty,” said Rep. Jim Ananich (Flint), a former high school teacher. “This plan is a creative, bold approach and one worth being considered by this Legislature.”
The four bills in the package of legislation introduced today in the House were sponsored by Representatives Bauer, Hovey-Wright, Lindberg and Dillon and were cosponsored by a number of others. The sponsors of the Senate versions of the bills are Senators Rebekah Warren, Hoon-Yung Hopgood, Morris Hood III and Vincent Gregory, and were co-sponsored by the entire Senate Democratic Caucus.