Hard-to-dodge questions that suggest whether a candidate for the Michigan Legislature actually supports limited government principles
Part 1 — These are specific measures that received votes in the 2009-2010 Michigan Legislature.* How would you have voted?
- Bills to provide more subsidies and tax breaks for electric car battery makers.
- A bill to increase the value of business and other tax credits granted to electric car battery makers by converting their facilities into tax-exempt "renaissance zones."
- An amendment to require the Department of Corrections to seek competitive bids and privatize one prison.
- A bill that made it easier to prevent increasing the number of charter schools in Detroit.
- A budget bill that cut state revenue sharing payments to local governments as a way to balance the budget without raising taxes.
- A budget bill that cut school funding by around 3 percent as a way to balance the budget without raising taxes.
- A bill allowing local governments to levy hotel, restaurant and rental car excise taxes to pay for municipal stadiums.
- A bill to impose a moratorium on cost-cutting closures of Secretary of State offices until certain specific procedures are adopted.
- An amendment allowing local governments to create "right-to-work zones."
- A bill to revise corporate acquisition rules, so as to prevent an Indiana company from acquiring a controlling interest in a Michigan insurance company.
- A bill to extend a business tax credit for capital improvements at the Michigan International Speedway.
- A bill imposing new regulations and registration requirements on home personal care services providers who were the subjects of a "stealth unionization" scheme. The bill would provide statutory authorization for that scheme, and also create a registry of home health care service providers.
(Links are to articles on MichiganCapitolConfidential.com or bills on MichiganVotes.org.)
Part 2 — General Candidate Preferences
- Would you support repealing a 22 percent Michigan Business Tax surcharge passed in 2007, and replacing the $700 million it raises each year with budget cuts?
- Will you sign a "no new taxes" pledge?
- Do you accept campaign contributions from government employee unions, given that you may be voting on measures affecting their members' future contracts and benefits?
- Will you support a law establishing that no school, state and local government labor collective bargaining agreements can force employees who choose not to belong to a union or pay "agency fees" to a union?
- Will you support placing all new local and school employees in defined-contribution pension plans (401K-type), oppose any expansion or enhancement of pensions for existing employees, and support limiting public employee health care benefits to the private sector average?
- Will you vote "no" on authorizing more public debt to pay for government retiree health care expenses?
- Will you support a law prohibiting any state environmental regulations or standards that exceed federal requirements?
- Would you support "voucherizing" higher education funding so the money follows the students rather than the university?
- Would you support shifting Michigan State Police road patrols to county sheriff deputies if this would save money? (This is strongly opposed by the MSP.)
- Would you support a law that indexes government and school employee health insurance fringe benefits to the average private sector benefit level?
- Would you support repealing the "prevailing wage" law that requires union-scale wages to be paid for school and other state construction projects?
- Would you support a "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights" constitutional amendment that limits state tax and spending increases to the rate of inflation plus population growth?
- Can you name three state government programs that you would introduce legislation to eliminate?
- Do you support a Michigan Health Care Freedom Amendment to prohibit any law or rule that would compel any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system?
* Why did we select these votes? Party-line or unanimous votes reveal nothing about where the ideological divides lie within each legislative caucus, and so tell voters little about candidates who make claims based on them. Unlike roll call votes, voice votes also reveal little.
Almost all of the votes cited here avoided these limitations. The caucus leaders in each chamber actually work hard to avoid such revealing votes, so lawmakers who complain that we're being "selective" may have no one to blame but themselves or their colleagues for there being so few useful votes for us to select from.
Jack McHugh is senior legislative analyst and Ken Braun is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.