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Michigan Senate approves use of tax money for new Wings arena

Dec 6, 2012, 12:59 PM EDT

Mike Ilitch AP

Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch got some good news Wednesday when the Michigan Senate approved legislation allowing public funds to be used to help build a new downtown arena for the hockey club.

The vote, however, was far from unanimous, with critics arguing the money should go towards education, not to subsidize pro sports.

From the Associated Press:

The bill approved by the Senate would allow use of tax dollars collected by the city’s Downtown Development Authority for the project. DDAs capture shares of local tax revenue to support development activities such as marketing and buying property.

Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer opposed the measure as a drain on funding for Detroit’s public schools.

The city’s DDA has been allowed for nearly two decades to pay down general obligation bonds with about $12.8 million a year that otherwise would have gone to education, she said. Now that those bonds are paid off, the bill would tap that same revenue stream for Ilitch’s project instead of finally steering the money back to education.

“This is a direct subsidy by school kids to allow a billionaire to build a hockey arena,” Whitmer said. “That’s the Republican agenda we all know and love. … It makes me sick. I hear my colleagues say, ‘Oh, this is for Detroit and we’re all in favor of Detroit now,’ because one billionaire called you.'”

Supporters of the bill argue the $650 million development will create 8,300 new construction jobs and pump millions of dollars into the economy, with no new taxes required.

The legislation still needs to be approved by the state’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

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