(Editor’s note: The following commentary is an edited version of a letter Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman recently sent to Center members.)
Two years ago, we sued to stop the state from funding an illegal unionization scheme. Last month, the state capitulated, pulling the plug on an operation that filled union bank accounts with millions of dollars meant for the care of low-income children, and roped tens of thousands of home-based day care owners and workers into a union of auto workers and government employees.
So while the national spotlight was on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s union policies, Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration quietly undid the Granholm-era arrangement that the Lansing State Journal editorial board called a “bizarre scheme.” Our clients — Sherry Loar, Paulette Silverson, and Michelle Berry — represent thousands of caregivers happy to no longer be forced to pay dues to a union they never invited into their homes.
Our policy ideas are appearing in bill proposals in Lansing. Gov. Snyder’s proposed budget replaces most of the discriminatory business tax breaks and subsidies with what is essentially a single, simple and overall lower tax for all firms. He is offering more revenue sharing (taxes collected by the state but given to local governments) for those municipalities that start to bring public employee benefits in line with the private sector (and less for those that refuse).
He signed legislation giving emergency financial managers more authority to keep cities and school districts out of bankruptcy, even if it means telling unions they can’t have everything they want. Pending legislation would lower the cost of public buildings by ending the practice of shielding union contractors from competition.
Some who oppose free-market reforms are quick to blame us for what they think is now going wrong in Lansing. The leftist Mother Jones magazine recently wrote about the Mackinac Center and the financial manager legislation. They called us “the think tank that inspired the governor’s controversial bill.” Even if they exaggerate, we’re glad they consider us influential.
Much, much more needs to be done to turn Michigan’s decline into an ascent. Mackinac Center analysts will continue to research, investigate and report on what needs to be done to accomplish that goal.
Joseph G. Lehman is president of 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.