As I read through the weekend’s news articles, one headline caught my eye: “Yoopers are talking secession from Michigan again”. This isn’t the first time I have seen that phrase in my life, but I am an ardent fan of the U.P. and all it has to offer so I had to read more.
The issue was raised and briefly discussed at the last Marquette County Board of Commissioners meeting and, while those quoted in the article agree that the path toward secession is complicated and not very practical at this time, it seems that the discussion gives rise to real concerns. According to Walsh-Sarnecki, the article’s author:
There also is the growing notion among many in the U.P. that Lansing is trampling the rights of local government, stirred in part by two issues:
• The state Legislature, as some locals see it, “rammed through” in 17 days a bill allowing anyone to mine land, undermining a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that said local government could determine which areas are off-limits to mining based on residential or other concerns.
• Lansing lawmakers are considering changing the way some ore mines are taxed. Currently, the mines pay property taxes, which go to the local government. The new tax would create a severance tax on the ore as it is mined, which many in the U.P. say would send the money to Lansing instead.
Those two points specifically caught my eye as mining in the Upper Peninsula is not new to us at the Michigan Rural Council. In February, we hosted a discussion with Director Keith Creagh from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development focusing on that specific topic. If you are not familiar with the topic, you should read this great introduction to severance taxes on mining in the U.P. As a follow up to that conversation, our economic development working group developed a white paper, entitled “Severance Tax: Investing in Rural Michigan’s Future” (pdf). As of this year, at least five big operations are getting underway or entering the permitting process, and more are busily exploring and testing the waters for future mines. Our concern, as the Michigan Rural Council, is to advocate for long-term gain as a result of any severance taxes collected. As mentioned in the white paper:
Community input, assessment and local decision-making are critical for ensuring that investments made
with severance tax dollars are focused on creating economic development, especially in areas directly
impacted by mining activities.
The Michigan Rural Council will be monitoring this issue as it moves forward and alerting our members to changes as they occur. The economic development working group will also issue updates to the white paper as appropriate. Join the Council today to stay informed!