Program: MacMullan conference center

Appropriation:

All from Interdepartmental Grants:

$1,313,900

Total:

$1,313,900

Program Description:

This appropriation funds the MacMullan conference center. The conference center is a state-owned and run motel/lodge located on Higgins Lake in Roscommon. The facility’s clientele is effectively limited by state statute. That is, in order to stay at the center one must belong to a group approved by state officials.

Recommended Action:

The MacMullan conference center and corresponding land should be sold to the private sector. The state should not be in the business owning and operating a resort-type facility for its employees and their guests.

Even though the conference center is supported by taxpayers, only those favored by state law can actually use it. These include: environmental and conservation education groups; government agencies; educational institutions; nonprofit corporations and associations; and organizations hosting an event that has a natural resources or environmental agenda. (Ironically, it was private sector companies that lobbied for these restrictions — to limit the state’s ability to take away their business.)

MacMullen has six lodges for overnight accommodations and nine classrooms. The center can sleep up to 135 people each night. The conference center also maintains 660 feet of beachfront access for swimming and fishing, as well as such amenities as volleyball, horseshoes, shuffleboard and basketball facilities.

The good news about MacMullan is that it usually raises enough money to cover its own direct costs, which helps avoid direct subsidies from state taxpayers. The bad news is that, according to MacMullan manager Jim Scott, roughly 60 percent of those paying to stay at the hotel/conference center are from other government institutions, excluding public schools and universities. In other words, taxpayer-funded state agencies are footing the bill for most of MacMullan’s upkeep, which constitutes a defacto subsidy.

What might MacMullan sell for if it were sold openly on the market? It is impossible to say precisely, but a comparative analysis can give us a general idea. Coldwell Banker is currently listing 7.4 unimproved acres on Higgins Lake with 460 feet of frontage for $2.3 million. MacMullen has four times the acreage and almost one-third more lake frontage. The state could reap $10 million. [2] Savings: $1,313,900.

Program: Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps

Appropriation:

All from Special Revenue Funds:

$993,600

Total:

$993,600

Program Description:

This appropriation funds the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps (MCCC). This program is designed to help low-income participants gain work experience and receive job counseling. Its funding level for the 2003 fiscal year is down $2,400,000 from the previous fiscal year.

Recommended Action:

The MCCC program should be eliminated. This is a Depression-era program and a reincarnation of the 1930s "Tree Army" that took to the forests of America to create work clearing paths, digging ditches, and related activities. The MCCC employs some 200 recruits, ages 18 to 25, to spruce up state parks, clear trails and rake beaches.

The majority of MCCC recruits are fed and housed by the state while earning $5.15 per hour on projects devised by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). With a budget of $3.2 million for fiscal year 2002, the program cost per corps member ran a whopping $17,700 — or nearly three times what Michigan pays per pupil for public education each year.

Participants who log 1,700 hours become eligible for a federal education grant of $4,725 (or $2,362 for 900 hours of service). Enrollment suspends all payments due on outstanding student loans, while accrued interest is paid in full by taxpayers. The scholarship benefit, in fact, appears to be the principal draw for corps enrollment. Some 60 percent of participants cited the award as their primary reason for enlistment. Thus, Michigan families who may be struggling with their own college costs may be subsidizing federal tuition assistance for MCCC workers.

Whether Michigan’s Civilian Conservation Corps fulfills its education and training goals is uncertain. No follow-up of participants has ever been undertaken.

The state has survived without the MCCC, and it can again. Budget constraints prompted Gov. John Engler to veto all funding for the program in 1991. Four years later, however, using proceeds from the sale of the state’s accident fund, the Legislature created a $20-million endowment to generate about a third of the MCCC’s current budget. [3] Savings: $993,600. Governor Granholm’s 2005 proposal increases the gross appropriation to $1,016,900.