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SOAR struggles to take flight amid House Republicans’ criticism

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(The Center Square) – SOAR is taking a fall against House Republican scrutiny, with numerous amendments preventing the package from leaving the House Economic Development Committee.

The Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund, first introduced in 2021 as a means of keeping business in Michigan, has faced recent backlash from both sides of the aisle for its high spending and lack of results.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is looking to right these wrongs with a rebranding of SOAR to the Make it in Michigan Fund, which would use $250 million toward “community investments.” Some Democrats want more extensive changes, as seen with pending House bills 5768-5770, which focus on public transport, housing, and an additional mobility trust fund.

House Republican Leader Matt Hall, of Richland Township, suggested the most extensive revision of all in his recent letter to Whitmer, emphasizing Michigan-based small businesses and maintaining the current teacher retirement fund. Popular criticisms of the Democrats’ revisions include reducing the annual $670 million pension investment, and that too much economic funding goes toward large corporations.

“Billions have been spent to win just a handful of jobs, and those jobs don’t even pay any more than other businesses,” the letter reads. “When our local small businesses are watching the same out of state EV battery plants get these funds over and over and then cut back on their promises, you can understand where the frustration comes from in our communities.”

The letter proposes that at least 60% of all economic funding should go toward Michigan-based businesses, and 50% of all SOAR deposits should go toward the Strategic Site Readiness Program. Likewise, they recommend diversifying industries, lowering income taxes, and voting on every investment in both legislative chambers before giving out funding.

“While we appreciate the effort to create a better economic growth strategy, we believe the current proposals still fall short in several critical areas,” the letter reads. “Our shared goal is to advance Michigan’s economy in a way that benefits our residents and job providers, and we are confident that these recommendations will help achieve that goal.”

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