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  21st Century Jobs plan takes risk to seek reward

    Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush? Michigan lawmakers apparently hope so as they move toward passage of a nine-bill package that aims to reposition the state's economy to provide new jobs for the 21st century. At the heart of the proposal is a plan to sell about a third of the state's future tobacco settlement payments in order to gain $1 billion to invest in industries of the future. The state Senate on Wednesday approved the plan, a similar version of which passed the House last month. The two chambers now must iron out the differences in their two versions. House Republicans want to tie approval of the package to reductions in state business taxes. According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, the plan would provide the state with about 56 cents for every $1 sold from the tobacco settlement. At least $240 million of the expected $1 billion from the sale would go to grants and loans for life sciences over the next five years. In addition to life sciences, money also would be invested in industries related to advanced automotive manufacturing, homeland security, defense technology and alternative energy. If approved, the legislation will create the 21st Century Jobs Trust Fund. Two boards, made up primarily of gubernatorial appointees, will be responsible for awarding grants and loans to businesses involved in the above industries, as well as provide money for venture capital and private equity investments. The rationale behind the plan is to diversify Michigan's economy and develop technology-based companies designed to meet the needs of the future. Supporters hope to create well-paying jobs that will replace some of the state's manufacturing jobs lost in recent years.
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