HOLLAND, Michigan — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the 2020 budget on Monday, but not without also issuing 147 line-item vetoes. Among them was a cut to the proposed $37.5 million funding for the Pure Michigan tourism campaign.
Whitmer's office told 13 ON YOUR SIDE in a statement, the governor supports Pure Michigan, but was forced to cut the budget after negotiations with Republicans broke off. Whitmer originally planned to cut Pure Michigan's budget down from $36 million in 2019, to $31 million in 2020. However, she was met with a Republican proposal of $37.5 million and had the power to either sign the funding in or veto the proposal as a whole.
Her office called republicans' proposal, "a mess," saying: "If Republicans want to come back to the table to negotiate changes to the budget she signed, she is ready to talk. But the budget Republicans sent her was fatally flawed. They forced her to make hard choices, and she chose to prioritize protecting public safety, making sure people don’t lose access to health care, and working to close the skills gap."
Tourism brings in big business for Michigan, directly supporting more than 200,000 jobs. In 2017, Michigan welcomed 122 million visitors who spend almost $25 billion, and according to Travel Michigan, that spending generated $2.7 billion in tax revenue.
The city of Holland has been a long-time partner of Pure Michigan, first joining as part of a pilot program in its early years. Sally Laukitis, Executive Director of Holland's visitors bureau said she was shocked to hear the program was cut.
"I’d always heard that some funding would be cut, certainly not all of it. Never in my wildest dreams, when you have such a successful tourism marketing campaign. And it’s had a huge economic impact on the state of Michigan, to hear it’s gone, it’s like what?" she said.
Laukitis attributes much of Holland's growth to its partnership with Pure Michigan, saying that for every $1 spent on marketing with the organization, the city sees about a $9 return on investment.
"When I started, we had a total of 750 hotel rooms, now we’re pushing 2,000 hotel rooms. We developed new tourism product here. We just brought in the Wizard of Oz statues," she explained.
Laukitis said cutting the programs will lead to less revenue for cities and local businesses. She and her staff at Holland's visitors bureau plan to contact their local lawmakers and fight for the budget to be restored.
"We believe it’s short-sighted, and we will be aggressively working with our industry partners and legislators and the administration to restore the funding. The focus should be on all the economic developments within the state, and Pure Michigan is a part of that."
See all of the line-items vetoed by the governor here:
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