U.P. legislators talk about economic development issues

U.P. legislators talk about economic development issues

MARQUETTE — Upper Peninsula legislators were among those speaking about issues affecting the area’s economic development in Marquette Friday.

“Well, the number one thing we are doing in Lansing is we are working on the energy issue that we have,” said State Representative Scott Dianda. “We’ve got to come up with a solution that makes sense for the U.P. so we can have more business development, where we can have a secure future with our energy systems.”

Energy was just one of the topics addressed by the four state legislators who appeared at the Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance meeting. A U.P.–centric fuel source was highlighted during the conversation.

“The other thing that we wanted to make sure that is a part of the solution is the biomass, because we are surrounded by a lot of great forest products that we can be able to utilize for our energy consumption, and I think we should take a look at what’s very important to us, and putting people to work is a part of that process,” Dianda added.

“The problem has been through the years is it’s — people say it’s a green source of energy, but the incentives went completely the opposite,” said Senator Tom Casperson. “They went to wind and solar, which literally carved out the biomass side of things, and so there is a lot of talk about changing that formula so that it can be at least on a level footing, and recognize especially with the fact that we live in an area that has a plentiful supply of biomass.”

Legislators also talked about the proposed sales tax increase that will hit ballots in May. If voters pass the amendment required to enact the proposal, it will have an effect on the complex formula for road and school funding.

“This plan in May separates those two issues apart from each other, and so roads will be funded at the gas pump, and schools will be funded away from the gas pump,” said State Representative Ed McBroom.

“I definitely would love to see that our counties get more of a share of those resources, because we’ve got a lot of county roads and a lot of local roads that need a lot of attention, too. All of us Yoopers see that constantly,” Dianda said.

Management of how much land the state purchases and how it uses such land was also a point of discussion. Senator Casperson stressed the need for a balance between preservation and use of land.

“The governor agreed with me that we need to know why we were buying land. It needed to be spelled out, and we need to put it in statute, and have a land management plan that the citizens could see and understand,” added Casperson.

In addition to the panel of legislators, the UPEDA meeting included talks on the PACE program and the history of energy problems in the U.P. Young professionals were featured in the afternoon’s U.P. Talent Forum.