Dec 15, 2023 - News

Population council sends final recommendation report to lawmakers

Shirley Stancato stands at the podium in front of Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel earlier this year to announced the creation of the council. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Growing Michigan Together Council co-chair Shirley Stancato stands at the podium in front of Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel this year to announce the council's creation. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

The state's population council released its ideas to increase Michigan's slow-growing population Thursday as part of an 85-page final report — most of which will face a mountain of hurdles in order to actually happen.

Why it matters: Longtime politicos say Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's population effort, first reported by Axios Detroit earlier this year, is the most attention placed on the issue in state history.

Driving the news: State Rep. Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet) was the lone voting member to oppose the report in a 19-1 vote during the meeting Thursday morning.

  • Wendzel said the lack of a concrete funding proposal was the reason she voted no as Republicans are sounding the alarm that the initiatives could be a Trojan horse for a statewide tax hike.

What they're saying: "Gov. Whitmer spent $2 million of taxpayer money just for her population council to give her a one-star review," Minority Leader Rep. Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) said in a statement Thursday, adding that the report, written by a handpicked group of appointees, is a "searing indictment of Gretchen Whitmer's failures."

Details: Among the report's most notable recommendations are financial incentives for incoming workers, two years of tuition-free postsecondary education, studying regional public transit and supporting entrepreneurship.

Zoom in: Council members wrote that Michigan must establish itself as an "innovation hub of the Midwest" and "America's scale-up state."

  • The role of public transit has long been a sticking point for young residents amid the population conversation. Billionaire developer Dan Gilbert said last month that he thinks the federal government should get involved in Southeast Michigan's transit future, saying young people these days "brag about not having cars," the Free Press reported.
  • Council members believe MDOT should conduct a feasibility study on developing direct service between Grand Rapids and Detroit and improving service on the Wolverine line between Chicago and Detroit.

Catch up quick: The 20 members on the council who had voting powers spent the last five months reviewing data from researchers and worked with four topic-oriented groups made up of 60 different people.

  • Work groups were announced following bipartisan criticism that the council itself was too old and not reflective of the demographic it was working to attract and retain.
  • The work groups included college students and early-career professionals, who had been notably absent from the council — save for Ollie Howie, a 27-year-old who manages venture capital in Grand Rapids, and state Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn).
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