Bill aims to claw back Ford factory money if plant is canceled

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(The Center Square) – A bill in the Michigan Legislature aims to protect taxpayers’ investment in Ford Motor Co.’s $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant after it paused construction in September despite nearly a $2 billion subsidy.

Reps. Sarah Lightner, R-Springport. and Ann Bollin, R-Brighton Township, proposed the plan if Ford doesn’t follow through on plans to build the BlueOval EV battery plant in the Marshall area.

House Bill 5137 aims to return $725.3 million to the state’s general fund allocated to the project but hasn’t yet been spent. HBs 5136 and 5138 aim to add accountability to projects awarded economic development funding through the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund.

“With Ford’s decision to pause construction on the BlueOval plant, millions of dollars in state incentives hang in the balance,” Lightner said in a statement. “It’s prudent to press pause and reconsider how we allocate these resources in light of recent developments. We must safeguard the interests of people throughout Michigan and ensure their hard-earned tax dollars aren’t wasted.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund previously approved incentives for the BlueOval Battery Park, including a $210 million Critical Industry Program grant from Michigan’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund; $772 million in Renaissance Zone property; and a real tax exemption over 15 years; and a $36 million loan.

The site has received $750 million for site development, plus another $65 million Strategic Site Readiness Program Grant to the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance for land acquisition, site studies, and water and wastewater upgrades.

The state cannot recoup the $299.7 million already spent on site development in connection with the Ford project through the legislative process. However, if Ford doesn’t move forward with construction, it won’t retain possession of the property.

“The road improvements intended for the Ford project should not proceed while the company’s commitment remains uncertain,” Lightner said. “Once the situation with Ford is clarified, the state can always revisit these funds in the future. Right now, our focus must be on ensuring fiscal responsibility and providing the people of Michigan with the reassurance that their hard-earned money is being used wisely and efficiently.

“Think of all the roads that can be fixed and new textbooks that can be bought with $725 million,” Lightner continued. “That’s a lot of money that could go to waste without quick action.”

HB 5137, a $725.3 million negative supplemental appropriations plan, seeks to shift money previously appropriated to the SOAR fund back into the general fund. It would do the same with funding appropriated to the Michigan Department of Transportation for road improvements surrounding the Marshall site if it were enacted into law.

HB 5138 aims to ensure economic development funding awarded through SOAR is automatically returned to the general fund when a project is canceled or put on indefinite hold. HB 5136 would require an annual audit of the SOAR fund.

“When taxpayer dollars are invested in economic development projects, we must ensure the initiatives are executed with accountability and transparency,” Bollin said. “These reforms are a crucial step in safeguarding our investments. By making these common-sense changes, we protect the interests of our citizens and ensure that their hard-earned money is used effectively.”

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