Candidates in Republican primary elections frequently employ a "cookie-cutter" campaign pitch focused almost exclusively on three issues: taxes, guns and unborn babies.
On brochures and in stump speeches, they implicitly assert that it's sufficient to claim only that they oppose tax increases, support the Second Amendment and oppose abortion.
Unfortunately, many Republicans have been elected under this issue-triumvirate whose subsequent records proved friendly to corporate welfare, regulation, expansions of government, renewable energy subsidies and mandates, preserving the education and government-union status quos, etc.
Yet many GOP primary candidates this year will nevertheless attempt this three-issue approach. Voters in those primaries should demand more, and sadly, they can expect no help from the mainstream media, whose coverage of legislative primary races is almost always laughably superficial (and/or biased).
With all that in mind, here are some hard-to-dodge questions that suggest whether a candidate for the Michigan Legislature actually supports limited government, free-market principles:
Part 1 — These are specific measures that have received votes in the current and previous Michigan Legislatures. How would you have voted?
- A bill to expand the number of people on Michigan's Medicaid medical welfare rolls, which among other things will deliver $3 billion federal tax dollars annually to politically powerful state hospital cartels. This is part of a federal program that greatly expands the government's role in individual health insurance decisions.
- A bill to close the underfunded traditional defined-benefit school employee pension system to new hires, instead providing generous 401(k)-type contributions.
- A bill to subsidize construction of a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings hockey team, owned by billionaire developer Mike Ilitch.
- A new law that allows local governments to impose criminal penalties, wage garnishment, foreclosure and more on a property owner who has failed to pay fines imposed by local government "administrative hearing bureaus."
- A measure that allows the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (Michigan's version of the federal Fannie Mae mortgage backer) to carry an increased debt burden of $4.2 billion after Nov. 1, 2014.
- A bill making Michigan a right-to-work state.
- Bills that increased hunting and fishing license fees, off road vehicle taxes, landfill "tipping" taxes and more.
Part 2 — General Candidate Preferences
- Will you sign a "no new taxes" pledge?
- Will you vote "no" on all extensions or expansions of "economic development" programs and deals that selectively grant tax breaks or subsidies to particular firms or industries?
- Will 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 repealing an existing mandate that forces school districts and local governments to engage in collective bargaining with government employee unions, and instead make this optional?
- Will you vote "yes" on legislation that imposes strict financial penalties on school districts that fail to comply with recent collective bargaining reforms (prohibited subjects of bargaining, violating right-to-work, prohibition on withholding dues for the union, etc.)
- Will you vote "yes" on measures that increase school choice for parents, even if these shift resources from conventional public school districts to charter public schools and other innovative alternatives (like online cyber-schools)?
- Do you believe Michigan's public schools need more money, despite studies showing that improved student performance is not associated with spending levels, and that performance has stagnated while spending exploded?
- 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?
- Will you oppose bills authorizing new debt for state college and university construction projects and facility expansions, given that many experts warn of a higher education bubble, and the expansion of higher-value alternatives that could mean fewer traditional university students?
- Would you support repealing the prevailing wage law that requires union-scale wages to be paid for school and other state construction projects?
- Will you support or oppose state budgets that increase spending faster than inflation plus the rate of population growth?
- Can you name three state government programs that you would introduce legislation to eliminate?