Daily Mining Gazette editorial, Houghton, Michigan, January 25, 2003

The invaluable Mackinac Center for Public Policy is weighing in on the Michigan budget crisis, reminding Gov. Jennifer Granholm that she has a unique opportunity to reshape state government.

The center, a free market think tank in Midland, soon will release a study outlining more than $1 billion in program cuts that would go a long way toward eliminating the state’s projected $1.6 billion budget deficit. This week, the center offered a hint of what’s to come with $34 million in recommended cuts to the Department of Agriculture. Most are corporate welfare programs that are "unnecessary, counterproductive or ... distort market mechhanisms," said Michael LaFaive, the center’s fiscal policy director.

Jumping off the page is a recommendation that state fairgrounds in Escanaba and Detroit be sold for about $59 million. If there’s sufficient interest in Upper and Lower Peninsula fairs, LaFaive says, a private developer will step in.

The argument has considerable appeal. It’s difficult to justify spending millions on fairs in Detroit and Escanaba when school districts around the state are in the process of laying off employees. Still, we’d like to hear more about what such a sale might mean to the Upper Peninsula.

The study, meanwhile, promises to once again demonstrate the value of think tanks like the Mackinac Center, which have the luxury of operating above the political fray. As legislators cling selfishly to pet programs and projects in coming months, you can bet the center will offer an unflinching appraisal of all things nice but not necessary.

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