[Photo of Jack McHugh]

Jack McHugh

Senior Legislative Analyst

Jack McHugh is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s senior legislative analyst and editor of MichiganVotes.org, a unique Web site that puts the activities of the Michigan Legislature at citizens’ fingertips. Since the site was launched in 2001, McHugh has written or edited concise, plain-English descriptions of every bill, vote and amendment in the state House and Senate: 12,000 bills; 10,000 roll call votes; 8,000 amendments; and 2,400 new laws. These can all be searched and sorted on the MichiganVotes.org Web site.

McHugh’s experience prior to joining the Center is wide and varied. He has been a floor trader in the treasury bond and gold futures “pits” of the Chicago commodity exchanges, writer and real estate developer. He entered the Michigan political and public policy scene in 1994, spending six years as a legislative chief of staff in the House of Representatives.

McHugh has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in political science from Central Michigan University (where he completed two highly relevant research projects, “Analyzing Michigan House Voting Records Using the ‘MichiganVotes.org’ Database” and “Analysis of Appropriations to Michigan’s Public Four-Year Universities, with Recommendations”).

Jack McHugh’s essays on public policy issues have appeared in The Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The Grand Rapids Press and many other newspapers. He is also co-author of a book on Midwest mountain bike trails.

Oddball State Agency Micromanages Liquor Retailing

Michigan's state liquor agency regulates holiday retail promotions. … more

Working on the Wrong Problem

Everything else must be fixed already. … more

Commentary: Legislative Republicans Get Rolled by Unions on Binding Arbitration

School Earmark Proposal: California Here We Come?

Commentary: Liquor Distribution Monopolies Rob Consumers, Taxpayers and Job Providers

Strange Brew

Legislators to craft brewers: You don't count, but here's a cookie. … more

Commentary: Government Collective Bargaining Inherently Corrupting, Should Be Outlawed

Political Careerists Threaten Freedom, Prosperity

Detroit Pols: No Political Loot, No Bridge

Report: Single Parenthood Unaffordable in Michigan

Wealth redistribution vs. reality. … more

Health Care Compact Myths, Busted

Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester) will introduce a bill to enroll Michigan in a multistate Health Care Compact. … more

Tax Proponents Wrong to Deny Job Creation

It's undeniable that tax cuts play a role in job creation. … more

Health Care Compact Shifts Choices from D.C. to Michigan

Michigan Stands Out in Tax Redistribution

Michigan's EITC among most generous in the country. … more

Gov. Snyder vs. the Political Careerists

Political Careerists Threaten Freedom, Prosperity

Serving the system instead of the people. … more

'MEA Republicans' Grind Down Tea Party Reforms

MEA-backed Republicans "on the fence" about school cuts. … more

'MEA Republicans' Grind Down Tea Party Reformers

Local Police/Fire Millage Votes Show Local Politicians’ Bad Faith

Public safety is not an “optional extra.” … more

State Debt Alert! Beware Massive Borrowing Disguised As “Lottery Privatization”

Four Reasons Why the Tea Party Should Ignore Detroit Bridge Controversy

Details or circumstances could change in the future, but for now there are good reasons why grass roots reformers should steer clear of the controversy surrounding various proposals for a new Detroit-Windsor bridge. … more

Beware Legislators Posturing on 20 Percent Co-pay Proposal

Other Than the Gratuitous Insults, Columnist Gets FOIA Story Right

Today, a columnist for a Michigan newspaper sarcastically characterized the Mackinac Center's Freedom of Information Act request to the labor policy departments of three government universities as follows:
"The right wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy has embraced the concept of turning to Big Government for assistance." … more

Judge Giddings Upholds Mackinac Center on Government Retiree Health Bennies

Earlier this week, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Richard Giddings ruled that post-retirement health benefits provided by the state, public schools and local governments are not enforceable obligations, and so politicians therefore have no duty to impose the cost of providing them on taxpayers. Future Michigan taxpayers could save literally billions of dollars. … more

'Mackinac Center Is Partisan' Charges More Revealing of Accusers Than Center

In recent weeks the Mackinac Center has been accused of being “partisan” because of inquiries it made about the apparently pro-union activities of government university labor studies programs. What the accusers specifically mean by the charge is that the Center’s actions are motivated by a desire to help Republican politicians win elections. Anyone familiar with the organization’s work over the past two decades will instantly recognize how off-base this is, and that the “partisan” charge says much more about the accusers’ worldview than the Mackinac Center. … more

Eternal Vigilance Required: Politicians' Persistent Threats to Popular Democracy

Michigan has seen its share of attacks by politicians on the people's right to take charge through popular ballot initiatives, referendums and recall campaigns. Among these, there have been efforts — some successful — to restrict recalls, make it harder to gather petition signatures, and to take away the right of referendum on controversial new laws. Citizens in Charge, a national organization created to protect these rights, has created a humorous "Don't Be Fooled" video to dramatize the threats. … more

ObamaCare 'Litmus Test' for Legislators

Given the potential “serving the Lansing system” rewards for those who play ball with ObamaCare’s special interest beneficiaries, it’s also likely that some GOP lawmakers would rather not have to take that vote, and will urge the leadership not to hold it. For many lawmakers, each step along this path will depend on whether voters and grass roots groups in their own districts, especially Tea Party groups, exert pressure by communicating that “this will be on the test.” … more

Rep. O'Brien Says No Tax Hike Behind Transit Bill

Last week Michigan Capitol Confidential ran a commentary by me describing an unusual Kalamazoo Transit Authority bill just approved by the Michigan House. In the article I insinuated that the legislation suggested the prospect of a future Kalamazoo transit millage increase. … more

'TeaParty' Scores Against ObamaCare in Several States (But Michigan Takes the Money)

Several staes have taken effective measures to prevent ObamaCare. Meanwhile in Michigan, the Legislature has taken no actions to block collaboration with ObamaCare, and the Department of Community Health has accepted $1 million from the federal government toward creating a state “exchange,” one of the key elements of the new federal law whose major provisions go into effect in January 2014. … more

Minor Flaw in Huffington Post's 'Coming Water Shortage Will Repopulate Detroit' Argument

A contributor to the left-leaning Huffington Post argued last week that, despite its current demographic meltdown, Detroit faces a rosy future in the long run because of "the specter of thirst and hunger arising from a shortage of the world's most basic source of survival, H2O." Alas, before stocking up on some of those $1 Detroit houses, water-mogul wannabes should take note of two relevant factoids. … more

Commentary: What's the Deal With K-zoo Transit Tax Bills?

Louisiana Pushes Back on ObamaCare, but Michigan Takes the Money

Michigan should reject a nearly $1 million federal health care exchange planning grant. … more

'Brutal' MSU Budget Cut: Just 4.5 Percent

Michigan State University President Lou Ann Simon has characterized proposed state aid cuts as "brutal," although she gamely acknowledges "We can make this work." … more

Number of ObamaCare 'Noncollaborationist' Governors Growing; Gov. Snyder Should Join Ranks

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has made his the third state to unambiguously reject the ObamaCare mandate to create a state insurance “exchange.” Gov. Rick Snyder should do the same for Michigan. … more

I Have Seen Your Automotive Future ...

I've just been to Rome and seen your automotive future. … more

Legislature’s Early-Out Deal: New Government Retirees 21, Taxpayers 3

Cost to Replace Lost Jobs with Michigan Film Subsidies: $39.4 Billion

Tea Partiers Counter-Protest Government Union 'Lobby Day'

Yes, Government Workers Get More Benefits

Michigan government employees at all levels including local governments, the state, public schools and colleges and universities, get fringe benefits that exceed private-sector averages by $5.7 billion every year. … more

Wasting Money on Windmills

A recent article in Slate by Robert Bryce describes how Texas has more wind generator capacity than any other state, but when state electricity demand set a one-day record of 63,494 mbegawatts last August, all those windmills contributed just a fraction of their rated capacity to meeting the load. The millions coming out of electricity customers' pockets to pay for the Texas boondoggle is a preview of what Michigan can expect under a 2008 law passed by our Legislature. … more

Analysis: Michigan Obamacare Implementation Now Illegal

Half-Good Role Model on Right-to-Work

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — whom Michigan’s new Gov. Rick Snyder has cited as someone whose leadership he admires — sees forced unionsism as a policy that "does hold us back economically." … more

Analysis: Follow the Money - No Wonder Corporate Welfare Bosses So Defensive

Michigan's 'Green Energy' Jobs Total: 315

Politicized Resource Allocation Yields Lackluster U.S., Michigan Recoveries

Government misallocation and central planning in the guise of “industrial policy” have also been significant contributors to Michigan’s lost decade and, until we were joined by the rest of the country in 2008, our chronic “single state recession.” … more

Sympathy for Politicians, Staff

As significant and real reforms and spending cuts are being discussed in Lansing, it’s hard not to feel a touch of sympathy for the “constituent services” staffers employed by lawmakers, and even for some of their politician bosses. … more

Michigan's Obamacare Tax Hike Collaborators

Collaborating with Obamacare undercuts the potential for repealing it, and so also implies passive acceptance of its tax hikes.  … more

101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan

(Editor's note: These recommendations were originally posted in January 2009. They were updated in January 2011, and a Top 10 list was added. You may view PDFs of the previous versions: the Second Edition, with an introduction by Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman, and the First Edition.)
Michigan is blessed with a wealth of the human and natural resources integral to building vibrant commerce and vigorous communities in the 21st century. At the moment, however, counterproductive public policies have made it harder for our industries to compete nationally and internationally and have reduced our state’s attractiveness to investors and entrepreneurs.
In addition, Michigan is not immune to the gradual erosion of equity and basic human freedom that accompanies a steady growth in the power and scope of government. Related to this, our government’s ability to properly perform many critical functions, including education, has been jeopardized by policymakers’ attempts to do too many things. This lack of focus has even led to confusion among policymakers over whether government exists to serve the people or vice versa.
There’s a lot of work to do to reverse this, but there’s good news. Once growth- and freedom-friendly policies are in place, recovery is likely to occur much more quickly than most people imagine.
For policymakers and voters serious about restoring freedom and economic vitality in the Great Lakes State, the Mackinac Center presents the following 101 recommendations.
This report is a compendium of work authored by Mackinac Center policy analysts and compiled by Senior Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh. The brief recommendations inevitably omit some nuance and detail. These are provided more fully in the online articles cited with each recommendation. … more

ObamaCare's Michigan Collaborators

Lobbyists for deep-pocketed, politically well-connected health care interests are already pressing for Michigan to create an ObamaCare insurance “exchange.” Politicians who say they oppose the law but then don’t oppose setting up a Michigan exchange are inviting a charge of collaborating with Obamacare. Mackinac Center scholar John Graham explains why. … more

The Mackinac Center Is not 'Pro-Business'

The Mackinac Center is pro-free markets, not necessarily “pro-business.” The following excerpt from an article by Luigi Zingales does a good job of describing the difference (although the Center is not a lobbyist, either). Zingales is a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  … more

What the Tea Party Is, Is Not, and its 'Core Competence'

Vocabulary Lesson

There is no “union movement” in the United States, and hasn’t been since the 1930s. Instead, what we have today is a union establishment. One possessed of perks and privileges granted by New Deal-era labor laws, including the power to coerce employees to pay dues (at least in non-right-to-work states). … more

State Taxpayers Can Benefit from School, University and Local Government Benefits Reforms

A reader responded to James Hohman’s “What can $5.7 billion get you in Michigan” in Michigan Capital Confidential, calling it “dishonest” to suggest that bringing the fringe benefits of all government workers in line with private sector averages would make a big difference in the state budget. The money is more "fungible" than taxpayers are led to believe, however. … more

Analysis: Transit Nonsense + State Health Care Rationing = Really Bad Policy (Roll Call Votes)

Michigan's Cost of Trusting Pols to 'Do What's Right': $11.5 Billion

A brief article in this week's Forbes explores the mounting debt crisis facing state, local and national governments worldwide; the title suggests one possible cause, "The Economic Incompetence of The Political Class." … more

Analysis: Transit Nonsense + State Health Care Rationing = Really Bad Policy

Mutual Honor Society

Mutual Honor Society

The Michigan Senate has been busy this week working on very important legislation, but on Wednesday the 29 outgoing members, plus the nine with a newly renewed four-year tenure, found time for 29 other items of business, listed below. These all passed on voice-votes.
- Senate Resolution 186, a resolution of tribute for the Honorable Deborah Cherry . . . … more

More on an Autism Insurance Coverage Mandate

The lobbyists and activists working to impose a state insurance mandate for autism coverage in Michigan are extremely active. Less than two hours after I blogged on this topic yesterday, I was contacted by two of them.  … more

Just Keep Saying 'No' to Costly State Insurance Mandates

Lieutenant Governor-elect Brian Calley is urging the lame-duck Legislature to pass a new mandate that would force health insurance companies to include coverage for autism treatments in all policies, potentially requiring them to pay for extraordinarily expensive new treatment regimes whose efficacy is still speculative. … more

"Green Energy" Subsidy Factory — not just Cap & Trade — the Real Test for GOP Energy Chair

"Green Energy" Subsidy Factory — not just Cap & Trade — the Real Test for GOP Energy Chair

As described by today's Michigan Capitol Confidential, some on the right are fuming because Michigan Congressman Fred Upton is being considered for chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Wall Street Journal's Kim Strassel suggests that opposition to cap-and-trade and support for more drilling are "baseline" criteria, and the next chair should be someone who's opposed a federal energy apparatus and "subsidy factory" that resembles "Soviet central planning." After being been blown away by eight years of such policies at the state level, this is something residents here will appreciate. … more

Weekly MichiganVotes.org Roll Call Vote Report

Ethanol a 'Solution'? Think Again.

In an important article in today’s Wall Street Journal, the brilliant George Gilder uses California as a poster-child to show how so-called "green energy" is paving the way to national bankruptcy and irrelevency. Michigan politicians have inflicted similar damage here too, including destructive ethanol subsidies and "renewable energy" electic utility mandates. … more

Sen. Switalski: Don't Ban Double-Dating

Sen. Switalski: Don't Ban Double-Dating

Reportedly the Michigan Legislature is considering legislation to prohibit young drivers from having more than one non-related passenger in the car. … more

Sen. Cassis's 'Going Away Present' to Taxpayers

Sen. Cassis, R-Novi, will leave the Legislature at the end of this year due to term limits, and last week she delivered a "going away present" to Michigan taxpayers in the form of a four-bill package eliminating the state's worst corporate welfare abuses. … more

Trimming Ethanol Subsidies Early Test for New GOP Congress and Michigan Legislature

Columnist Tim Carney observes in the Washington Examiner that whether or not they trim ethanol subsidies will provide an early test for how serious Republicans in Washington are about reducing the cost, size and intrusiveness of government. The same applies here in Michigan.  … more

A MichiganVotes.org Apology to Rep. Dave Agema

Due to a data-entry error, Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, was incorrectly listed on MichiganVotes.org as the sponsor of House Bill 5593, now Public Act 216 of 2009, which increased the state licensure fees imposed on nurses. A Michigan Capitol Confidential story citing MichiganVotes.org inadvertently repeated the error. … more

Michigan Legislature Class of 2011 86 Percent 'Political Careerists'

Analysis: Renewable Electricity 'Net Metering' Capacity: 1/28,000 of Michigan’s Total Needs

Renewable Electricity 'Net Metering' Capacity: 1/28,000 of Michigan’s Total Needs

Even if dispersed renewable power generation became much more cost-effective than currently, net metering would never replace more than a fraction of the total electricity required to keep Michigan's homes, shops and factories humming. … more

Tax Hike Would Fund Whose Future?

Michigan Capitol Confidential reports that the Lansing School District used taxpayer-funded resources to send out a flier that clearly encourages voters to approve a tax increase to pay for more spending by the district. … more

Crippling Our Economic Competitiveness

As reported by The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 27, the respected North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) has determined that proposed new federal power plant rules will force the closure of electric generating plants representing 7 percent of America's capacity. … more

And They Think California Is a Lost Jobs Basketcase?

Some 867,500 jobs have disappeared from the Great Lakes State since our 2000 employment peak of 4,690,300 jobs. … more

Analysis: Good News on Natural Gas Threatened by Regulatory Overreach

Michigan Mediocre on New Business Tax Climate Index (and Awful on MBT)

The Tax Foundation released its 2011 State Business Tax Climate Index today, and not surprisingly Michigan comes off looking rather mediocre. … more

Political Careerists to Dominate Legislature

An article currently appearing on MichCapCon.org and Mackinac.org describes how 72 of the likely winners in 81 races for open Michigan state House and Senate seats are already members-in-good-standing of the bipartisan political class. These include 61 current or former office-holders, eight current or former political staffers, several relatives of legislators, and others who have been government or school officials or employees. … more

Oops! $300k School Super Under-Reports Pay

Today's Grand Rapids Press adds important details to a story Michigan Capitol Confidential reported on Oct. 13 about Kevin O'Neill, superintendent of the Coopersville School District, whose annual compensation totals $311,034. … more

88 Percent of New 2011 Legislators 'Political Careerists'

MEA Republicans

Good News on Natural Gas Threatened by Regulatory Overreach

An amendment that would have banned revolutionary new natural gas drilling technology in Michigan received 16 Democratic "yes" votes in a party-line vote in the state Senate last month. Party-line roll call votes usually say more about caucus discipline than lawmakers' sincere policy preferences, and Democrats hardly have a monopoly on seeking burdensome new environmental regulations and mandates, but it's still disappointing that not one savvy Democrat — including ones generally considered "moderate" rather than anti-business or anti-energy — recognized this outright ban proposal as extremist. … more

Bare-Knees-Over-Broken-Glass to Vote for Local Tax Hikes?

The National Taxpayer's Union has just released a 2010 election guide called "The Taxpayer's Perspective" that lists every local millage election in the states by county. Each is given a "plus" or "minus" sign rating based on whether it "could lower taxes or control government" or "raise taxes or expand government." But maybe Michigan voters really don't mind local tax hikes, and instead have a "strong appetite for taxes." … more

Governor Describes Film Subsidies as Jobs Program, so "Why Not Give Them Spoons?"

The headline of a story today's Detroit Free Press characterizes Gov. Jennifer Granholm's understanding of the state film production subsidies' role like this: "Goal of film tax credit is jobs, not more revenue." This reminds one of the late economist Milton Friedman's question upon seeing a U.S. taxpayer-funded public works project in a poor country where thousands of men with shovels were moving dirt one spadeful at a time. … more

Governor Describes Film Subsidies as Jobs Program, so "Why Not Give Them Spoons?"

The headline of a story today's Detroit Free Press characterizes Gov. Jennifer Granholm's understanding of the state film production subsidies' role like this: "Goal of film tax credit is jobs, not more revenue." This reminds one of the late economist Milton Friedman's question upon seeing a U.S. taxpayer-funded public works project in a poor country where thousands of men with shovels were moving dirt one spadeful at a time. … more

Government Subsidy Deal Off for Competitor to Lansing Restaurant Owners

Existing, home-grown restaurant owners in the area — who pay their taxes in full and get no special privileges from the government — are no doubt relieved that they won't have to compete with a politically favored and subsidized outsider. … more

Horse Racetracks Are Beneficiaries and Victims of State's Gambling Schizophrenia

Horse racetrack owners complain that the state is schizophrenic about their industry, erecting statutory and bureaucratic barriers to it operating profitably while throwing special favors at particular tracks in the form of subsidies and selective tax breaks. … more

Analysis: Horse Racetracks Are Beneficiaries and Victims of State's Gambling Schizophrenia

Bad Week for Michigan Corporate Welfare Machine

On Thursday the plug was officially pulled on a monumentally hyped film endeavor in Allen Park called "Unity Studios." There were no press releases from the Governor's office or the Michigan Economic Development Corp. announcing the evaporation of the mirage. … more

Bad Week for Michigan Corporate Welfare Machine

On Thursday the plug was officially pulled on a monumentally hyped film endeavor in Allen Park called "Unity Studios." There were no press releases from the Governor's office or the Michigan Economic Development Corp. announcing the evaporation of the mirage. … more

Life is Good for State Employees

State employees get a 3 percent pay hike this Friday, because lawmakers in the House and Senate failed to veto it earlier this year. This will be the 11th raise they've received since 2002. In addition, individual employees are constantly getting "step" or seniority pay hikes, longevity boosts, and more. … more

Legislature's Early-Out Deal: New Government Retirees 21, Taxpayers 3

Sept. 26 Michigan Legislature Roll Call Report

Would Tea Partiers Favor Wealth Redistribution Without the Bureaucracy?

Would Tea Partiers Favor Wealth Redistribution Without the Bureaucracy?

The Gongwer Michigan Report (subscription required) recently did a story on the status of welfare programs today compared to past recessions. The Mackinac Center's Jack McHugh was quoted in the piece, and here he "revises and extends" his remarks to explain that welfare doesn't just redistribute wealth, but imposes bureaucratic micromanagement on the lives of recipients. Further, he believes that most Americans, including Tea Partiers, may object more to the destructive effects of this futile micromanagement than to some level of wealth redistribution. … more