Program: Cooperative resources management initiative

Appropriation:

All from Interdepartmental Grant:

$1,000,000

Total:

$1,000,000[11]

Program Description:

According to the state’s House Fiscal Agency, a nonpartisan agency that gives expert financial assistance to the House Appropriations Committee, this appropriation helps coordinate efforts of local, state and federal governments with private-sector conservation organizations who “work together to manage land in Michigan.” It is designed to match private landowners with government partners who help the landowners design an effective land-management plan.

Recommended Action:

The state could remove itself from this initiative entirely. Private conservation groups are formed around the self-interest of the individuals who agree with the groups’ missions. As a result, they maintain sufficient incentives to coordinate their own efforts without help from the state or other units of government. Savings: $1,000,000.

Program: Migrant labor housing

Appropriation:

All from GF/GP:

$550,000

Total:

$550,000[12]

Program Description:

According to the state of Michigan, the Migrant Labor Housing program has two components. The first component involves licensing and inspection of any site occupied by more than five migrant workers. The second component involves grants for the construction of migrant housing.

Recommended Action:

To former Gov. Engler’s credit, he reduced the appropriation for this program by 38.5 percent over the previous fiscal year (ending in 2002), but Gov. Granholm could go further and remove the state entirely from this program. Migrants have been finding satisfactory places to live on their own accord since long before the state began inspecting and licensing migrant housing in 1978.[13] Prior to 1978, every housing situation may not have been ideal — from either the observers’ or migrants’ perspective — but that does not mean people were worse off then as opposed to now, on net balance. The transitory needs and wants of employers and employees are too fluid and complex to be confined to the one-size-fits-all standardization model offered by a state program. The bottom line is that, unless adult migrant workers are being illegally defrauded or coerced, they are quite capable of accepting or rejecting housing based on how they themselves perceive the benefits and costs of living and working in a particular area.

In removing itself from this role, the state may wish to ease its financial and regulatory transition in one of two ways: by privatizing housing inspections in part or whole. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has long recommended contracting out to private agencies for state and local inspections of housing and housing-related items. This form of partial privatization would work by having the MDA contract out inspection of the 950 sites under its jurisdiction. Such a move could shave 20 percent from this line item. (For more on this subject, see “Looking Over Private Inspections,” in the Winter 2001 edition of Michigan Privatization Report.[14])

The state could, at a relatively small cost, alert those companies whose clients include farmers living in migrant housing to the fact that the state no longer intends to regulate such housing. This would serve to draw insurers’ attention to the risk of having to make more payouts based on the provision of regulation-free housing by their clients. Insurers may or may not mandate similar private inspections and then reflect any concern that they may have by raising or lowering premiums paid by farmers to protect insured assets. Savings: $550,000.