In this e-newsletter you’ll find an important announcement about the public information session about the I-375 project, as well as updates on the state budget and AK Steel.
May 17: I-375 Environmental Study – Public information session
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is hosting a public meeting to gather input about the next steps involved in the I-375 project environmental review process under the National Environmental Protection Act. The meeting will take place on , from at Eastern Market Shed 5, 2934 Russell St. in Detroit.
Project background: In 2014, MDOT in collaboration with the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. (DEGC) and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (DRFC) completed a Planning and Environmental Linkage (PEL) study on the current I-375 freeway in downtown Detroit. The results of the study indicated that something must be done with the 50-plus-year-old freeway due to its outdated design and the poor condition of the infrastructure. The study determined that a transformation of the freeway to a surface street was feasible, although a final determination could not be reached due to additional required studies. Six illustrative alternatives were developed and shared with the public and stakeholders during the PEL study.
In 2017, MDOT, the city of Detroit, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) launched an Environmental Assessment (EA) study to further review traffic operations, social, economic and environmental impacts, engage the public, and analyze how study alternatives fit with city planning initiatives. A review of the previous PEL study, the six alternatives, and submitted comments can be viewed at www.michigan.gov/i375study.
This week, the House of Representatives voted on the state Omnibus and School Aid budgets. I voted no on both budgets. I voted no on the school budget primarily because it included less of an increase in per-pupil funding than the governor recommended and because it included funding that would be directed to private schools. I believe that is unconstitutional. I voted no on the state omnibus budget because of drastic cuts to important programs affecting children, seniors and families across our state. We fought to restore funding for programs like Meals on Wheels, which provides nutritious food options to seniors in need; Great Lakes restoration projects, which keep our unique lakes and beaches clean for tourists and future generations to enjoy; and the city of Flint as it continues to work toward full recovery after its water crisis.
The evening that we voted on the budgets, I spoke about the massive cuts to critical environmental protection programs at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. I said that we are at a time when we have more attention and more awareness in our communities about the many environmental challenges we face as a state and country. And I believe we should be doing more, not less, to respond to these pressing needs. The cuts to critical environmental protection programs are extremely concerning because of the potential disastrous impact on our public health – whether it is cleaning up our land, monitoring our air or testing our drinking water for lead.
The drastic cuts to our air monitoring program are detrimental to the protection of my residents’ right to breathe clean air. We are in a time when we still don’t have an approved sulfur dioxide plan to be sure we can meet the federal standards – for which we are still considered a “non-attainment area” – and when we are very likely to be designated a “non-attainment area” this fall for not meeting national ozone standards. We need to be doing more air monitoring – not less monitoring – to know exactly what our residents are breathing in every day.
In addition, there are several big remediation efforts going on in my district for which the MDEQ’s remediation division has been critically important. Residents in Southwest Detroit are looking forward to the day when they can more safely use the current park space at Riverside Park. But now our budget calls for big cuts to the very program that makes sure the land is again safe for our children to play on.
Click here to watch my speech opposing the budget that I gave during House session.*
AK Steel Update
On April 25, the Michigan Strategic Fund Board voted to adopt an agreement with AK Steel to transfer Severstal’s credits to the new company, with an overall cap of $20,365,905 on the total amount of remaining tax credits issued under the MEGA Tax Credit Agreement and reducing the term of the agreement by six years. Ellen, my legislative director, spoke at the board meeting to express our opposition to the agreement.
My concerns with the agreement for AK Steel are two-fold. First, I believe that if we are to give AK Steel Severstal’s old tax credits, we need to take the appropriate steps to protect the public health of Michiganders around the facility. We have not taken the necessary steps to do this as a condition of the transfer of these credits. Second, legislation was considered in both chambers last term on this issue, and this legislation was not successful. Moving this issue to a much less public non-legislative arena without the process of committee hearings and a public vote by elected bodies, the way tax policy should be handled, is extremely disappointing.
I will soon be sending a letter to the attorney general requesting an opinion about the legality of this agreement. AK Steel filed its first tax return after December 31, 2011, under the corporate income tax. Nothing in the documents provided by the MEDC to the Michigan Strategic Fund Board indicates what authority is being used to reauthorize AK Steel to file under the Michigan Business Tax Act. This would appear to be a requirement for receiving the MEGA and Brownfield credits they intend to receive under the agreement.
Thank you so much for reading this update. Feel free to contact my office with any questions.
State Representative Stephanie Chang
6th House District