Democrats in the Michigan State Legislature rejected efforts during recent budget debates to block enemies of the United States from receiving Michigan business incentives, so Republicans are taking another route to protect taxpayers.

Republicans in both chambers recently proposed amendments for the Labor and Economic Opportunity budget that “would have reinforced our national security by prohibiting funds from being used for a company hailing from an adversarial nation to the United States,” according to a statement from the Michigan Legislature Working Group for National Security.

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“Last week, the House Democrats rejected commonsense reform that would put the most basic national security guardrails around the expenditure of public money, so I brought a similar provision forward in the Senate,” said Sen. Jonathan Lindsey, R-Coldwater. “After having over a week to review and discuss this simple amendment, every single Senate Democrat went on the record in opposition. Make no mistake, they all voted against doing our part to secure our nation against foreign adversaries.”

Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, said his amendment in the lower chamber would have required appropriations from Michigan’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve, a fund established by lawmakers in 2021 to court large projects, to receive a review from the Committee on Foreign Investment before deals are finalized.

“As we witnessed with the negligent misappropriation of Michigan taxpayer dollars toward the Gotion battery plant, it is prudent that we install failsafe mechanisms to ensure our dollars are not directed to an entity with this to one of our enemies,” he said. “That investment should have never happened. The budget that was passed out of our Labor and Economic Opportunity Subcommittee failed to increase security measures for the SOAR fund.”

The rejected amendments follow numerous concerns about the Gotion plant coming to Big Rapids that have centered on the company’s close ties to the Chinese Community Party, co-owner Volkswagen’s issues with slave labor in China, the project’s proximity to the state’s Air National Guard base, and the massive infusion of taxpayer dollars for the project.

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer agreed to provide Gotion with a $715 million incentive package that includes a 30-year tax break worth $540 million, along with $175 million in grants, to construct the $2.36 billion electric vehicle battery plant in Mecosta County that’s expected to employ 2,350 workers. She touted the deal inked in 2022 as “the biggest ever economic development project in Northern Michigan” and a “winning investment” for taxpayers, though officials involved signed nondisclosure agreements that make it difficult to assess those statements.

In addition to Gotion, the working group has raised similar concerns about Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited, one of the companies partnering with Ford to build an electric vehicle battery plant in Marshall. The Whitmer administration has invested about $2 billion in that project.

Still other concerns from the working group involve Michigan police agencies using drones purchased from foreign entities and Michigan schools and universities maintaining relationships with Confucius Institutes tied to the Chinese Communist Party.

All of the above has inspired an incoming bill package from House Republicans designed to protect taxpayers from all of the foreign entities on the federal watch list, echoing similar bills in other statehouses and Congress. Other countries on the list include Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria.

“The CCP’s authoritarian governance, human rights abuses, unfair economic practices, national security threats, disinformation campaigns, and lack of reciprocity all warrant caution,” Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Adams Township, said. “Every legislator in this group of bill sponsors offers a unique professional experience related to the issues at hand: veterans, a farmer, a health care worker, a teacher, and more.”

The proposed legislation would outlaw certain apps on government devices, state and local governments from using dangerous technology like drones, university grants “conditioned upon an anti-American agenda,” economic incentives for foreign entities of concern, health information maintained outside of the U.S. or Canada, and entities of concern from surveilling military bases or critical infrastructure.

The bill package is backed by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Cella, director of the Michigan-China Economic and Security Review Group, former U.S. Ambassador and Congressman Pete Hoekstra, principal advisor to the review group, and former chairman of the bipartisan U.S. House Select Committee on the CCP, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc.

“This is an issue that, in Washington, is bringing people together, it’s something that everyone is and should be concerned about,” Hoekstra said. “It’s spurring coalitions for change at the local level in Michigan’s townships as well. Our state Legislature should follow suit.”

“We are here on behalf of our Michigan residents because our nation is not subverting foreign influence,” Meerman said. “Concerns about the CCP and other dangerous foreign entities should be a matter of shared concern for conservatives and liberals alike. These policies would protect the interests and values of all of Michigan.”