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Bill that would help build new arena for Detroit Red Wings passes house, moves on to governor

DETROIT - Michigan's House approved a bill that could lead to the Detroit Red Wings finally getting a new home.

The bill was passed Thursday and now goes to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. State senators approved the legislation last week.

Red Wings' owner Mike Ilitch currently leases aging Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. Last week, he announced plans for a $650 million multi-use development, which would include an events centre where hockey games could be held.

The bill would allow tax dollars collected by Detroit's Downtown Development Authority to be used for the project. Already, the DDA has been allowed for nearly two decades to pay down Detroit's general obligation bonds with about $12.8 million a year that otherwise would have gone to education, Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer has said.

"Funding a private stadium with taxpayer dollars cannot be our priority at this time," House Democratic Caucus leaders said Thursday in a release. "The money that would go to a Red Wings stadium comes from local property taxes and millages that would otherwise go to the School Aid Fund and we are against the continuation of that transfer."

The bill is among a batch of legislation coming up for votes during an uncharacteristically busy lame duck session of the state Legislature. Earlier this week, the House passed right-to-work bills heavily opposed by Michigan's labour unions, which were swiftly signed by Snyder. The House also has passed a replacement emergency manager law and will consider changes to a bill that would restrict and regular abortion practices.

Supporters of the stadium bill claim it will create upward of 8,300 new construction jobs and pump $1 billion into Michigan's economy.

Detroit could use the economic help. The city has a deficit of more than $200 million and could come under state oversight following a review by the state Treasurer's office.

"This is an exciting opportunity to provide an economic boost to the metro Detroit area without a tax increase," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. John Walsh. Walsh is a Republican from Livonia, west of Detroit. "This is a great example of how the private sector can partner with the public sector to continue the economic reinvention we have been driving for the past two years."

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