The late Joseph Overton was senior vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy at the time of his passing in 2003. Overton played a key role in establishing the Center as a growing, productive and influential think tank through his direction of its research projects, staff operations and strategic planning. He also authored a variety of Center studies and commentaries. His model of public policy change, posthumously named the "Overton Window," has gained national currency following his passing.

His tremendous contributions to the Mackinac Center and the free-market movement ended with his untimely death on June 30, 2003, in an ultralight airplane crash.

Overton had a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Technological University and a juris doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He was a member of the State Bar of Michigan and was appointed by Gov. John Engler to the Michigan Appellate Defender Commission upon recommendation by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Before joining the Mackinac Center, Overton held a variety of positions at The Dow Chemical Company, including electrical engineer, project manager, and quality specialist.

Overton studied and promoted free-market principles for more than a decade. He also traveled broadly, visiting Poland, Nicaragua, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Colombia, Malawi, Mozambique, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, India and the People's Republic of China.

The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education

This pathbreaking approach to expanding parental choice in education embodies a proposal to amend the Michigan constitution and establish a Universal Tuition Tax Credit (UTTC). The tax credit would offset a portion of private or public school tuition and would be claimed against state tax liabilities. In addition to improving education, the UTTC would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Unlike other tax credit plans, the UTTC would help needy families with low state tax liabilities by encouraging the creation of corporate scholarships to offset tuition costs not covered by the UTTC. The per-student credit could be claimed against the Michigan tax liability of any person or corporation. Unlike vouchers, the UTTC would not allow state funds to support religious schools, would not drain funds from the public schools, and would not spawn new entitlements or overregulation of private schools. The study includes detailed fiscal models, a discussion of school choice, a history of Michigan's constitutional impediments to education reform, and proposed language for a constitutional amendment. 76 pages … more

Advancing Civil Society: A State Budget to Strengthen Michigan Culture

At its core, the budget of the state of Michigan is not about money-it is about people and the way they organize their society. This line-by-line analysis of Michigan's 1995-96 state budget reflects a principled vision for Michigan culture by asking this question about each budget item: Should this program or activity be done by the authority of the state and financed by taxes, or should it be done by its individual citizens acting in voluntary cooperation and private contract with one another? The study recommends over $2 billion in spending reductions (over 7 percent of the state budget) achieved by eliminating unnecessary and counterproductive programs, rolling back unjustified program growth, and contracting out for services that can be handled more efficiently by the private sector. This landmark analysis will help citizens, candidates, and officials of any state craft budgets that promote the strengthening of private institutions and civil society. 97 pages. … more

MEGA Industrial Policy: An Analysis of the Proposed Michigan Economic Growth Authority

Michigan has seen stellar economic progress due to Governor Engler's free-market reforms. Is MEGA a reversal of the trend? Should government pick the winners and the losers? This report analyzes proposed MEGA legislation. 16 pages. … more

Political Drift or Paradigm Shift?

During the elections of 1994, the voters spoke with uncommon clarity about the role of government in their lives. Governor John Engler was re-elected to be a risk-taker, not a caretaker. In this advisory document, the Mackinac Center recommends several specific measures for education reform, labor law reform, and economic development. 5 pages. … more

Michigan Education Special Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine

This exhaustive report illuminates the inner workings of the Michigan Education Association's health insurance division, known as MESSA. It documents how tens of millions of the public's education tax dollars are wasted each year on uncompetitive teacher health insurance, and how MESSA is part of a systematic plan to subsidize the MEA's basic operation and political activity. 64 pages. … more

Keeping the Engler Revolution on Track

This analysis of Governor Engler's first year in office gives the governor high marks for balancing the state's budget without a tax hike. The governor is urged not to shrink from the politics of constructive confrontation with legislative "big spenders." Includes a review of his first year in light of the Road Map for a Michigan Renaissance, issued by the Mackinac Center in November 1990, and makes recommendations for the continued downsizing of state government. 3 pages. … more