[Photo of James M. Hohman]

James M. Hohman

Assistant Director of Fiscal Policy

James M. Hohman is assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He holds a degree in economics from Northwood University in Midland, Mich.

Michigan Falls to Bottom 10 in Key Economic Measure

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released a key measure of economic growth today that showed that Michigan has gone over a decade without increased production. New gross domestic product figures, a measure of the value of an area’s goods and services production, showed that Michigan’s economy produced 8 percent less in 2009 than it did in 2000 when adjusted for inflation. The nation rose 15 percent during this period. … more

Wishful Reporting of Governor’s Investment Missions

In Gov. Jennifer Granholm's weekly radio address, she ballyhoos her investment missions abroad by claiming that they're responsible for creating or retaining 20,000 Michigan jobs. Unfortunately, she continues to mistake job announcements for job creation. … more

Why Do Michigan’s Failed Economic Programs Stick Around?

Michigan’s Economy: From Worst to Average

There's no question that Michigan's economy has performed poorly over the past decade. Essentially, the state lost one out of every five jobs since employment peaked in 2000. However, Michigan's economic trends have changed in recent months. It is no longer the worst performer in the country. In fact, since the end of the U.S. recession, Michigan's performance is average. … more

State Pension Funds: Evidence of Public Class’s Overcompensation

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

Governor: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose on Job Projections

Gongwer News Service reports that Gov. Jennifer Granholm is unhappy that a new economic forecast estimates that Michigan will start adding jobs next year. But crediting those programs for improving the job estimates is an injudicious use of the forecasts since the economic estimates cited have been optimistic. … more

Michigan Schools Contract Out More Than Ever (Viewpoint)

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

Analysis: Broken Windows on Display in Michigan Senate Finance Committee

Broken Windows on Display in Michigan Senate Finance Committee

Mark Adler, a lobbyist for the Michigan Production Alliance, and Carrie Jones, the director of the Michigan Film Office, defended the state's film subsidy program in a Senate Finance Committee meeting today. To do so they employed a long-recognized economic fallacy, the "Broken Window" theory, which only considers economic activity that is "seen" while ignoring unseen economic costs. … more

Michigan Schools Contract Out More Than Ever

State Budget Deal Kicks Can Down the Road to New Guys

The fiscal 2011 budget appears done. It contains no systemic reforms or program reductions. Meanwhile, with the end of federal stimulus subsidies, revenue projections for the following fiscal year fall off a cliff. … more

Analysis: Phony 'Sandbox Party' Uses Taxpayer Dollars to Lobby for More Goverment Spending

Phony 'Sandbox Party' Uses Taxpayer Dollars to Lobby for More Goverment Spending

A government entity that received $14.6 million of taxpayer money in the current state budget organized a publicity stunt to lobby for more government spending, called the "First Ever Sandbox Party Convention" in East Lansing. … more

July Was a Good Month for Michigan

Last week's state-by-state employment release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Michigan led the nation in job growth from June to July. The state gained an estimated 27,800 jobs in the month. … more

The Secret of Economic Growth in Michigan

In a recent radio interview with Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative Director Michael LaFaive, radio host Tony Conley stated that we should be looking at what Texas and North Carolina are doing to foster economic development. Any benchmarking attempt should first start with the right states, but North Carolina isn't one of them. … more

Public Sector Still Doing All Right

Special interest groups whose members' compensation comes from tax dollars are afraid that Michigan's economic crisis will impact their paychecks. They're right to be concerned since there is less private money left to pay generous public-sector salaries and benefits. … more

New Report Misses the Mark on Higher Education

A new report by the Michigan League for Human Services bemoans the lack of tax money going to higher education. But the authors give a skewed view of appropriations, get some facts wrong, and completely miss the 800-pound gorilla of higher education: that increasing costs drive tuition increases. … more

Oakland County Gives Local Governments Something to Shoot For

Analysis: Dangers of Status Quo Budgeting in Higher Education

Michigan Education Association May Help Fund Oklahoma Revenue Grab

Oklahoma's state affiliate of the National Education Association only has 23,451 members, but has nevertheless launched a revenue-grabbing initiative, SQ 744, that will be on the ballot in November. … more

Bill Reveals New Politically Correct Economic Development

A newly introduced bill in Michigan gives new meaning to the phrase "politically correct economic development." … more

Michigan Exports to China Grow

The Chinese market for Michigan goods continues to grow. So it's strange that politicians here continue to point fingers at Chinese trade for Michigan's economic decay. … more

Michigan Exports to China Grow

The Chinese market for Michigan goods continues to grow. So it's strange that politicians here continue to point fingers at Chinese trade for Michigan's economic decay. … more

Michigan Public Payrolls Protected in Recent Recession

Since the beginning of the national recession in December 2007, Michigan's private sector has lost 70 times more jobs than its government sector. … more

Michigan Public Employee Pay and Benefits Growing

Michigan Film Subsidies: Two Years, $117m — and No Film Job Growth

Michigan Public Payrolls Protected in Recent Recession

Since the beginning of the national recession in December 2007, Michigan's private sector has lost 70 times more jobs than its government sector. … more

Governor Surrenders on Service Tax

Michigan taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief: The Detroit Free Press reports that Gov. Jennifer Granholm has abandoned hope that her service tax will become law. At a news conference on an unrelated issue, the Governor stated that she did not expect the Legislature to enact her plan. … more

Analysis: Michigan Beats Most States in Tax Revenue Growth

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released state and local government quarterly tax information that shows Michigan's tax revenue continues to outperform the rest of the state economy. Policymakers should keep these figures in mind as Lansing cries poverty over this year's budget. … more

Census Bureau: Michigan Beats Most States in Tax Revenue Growth

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released state and local government quarterly tax information that shows Michigan's tax revenue continues to outperform the rest of the state economy. Policymakers should keep these figures in mind as Lansing cries poverty over this year's budget. … more

Reality Check: Governor’s Budget 'Poor Mouthing'

Gov. Jennifer Granholm cried poverty yesterday, claiming that her administration already cut 11,000 state employees and that the state cannot make further cuts without lowering "critical services that struggling families count on to survive in this tough economy." However, thanks to higher compensation levels, taxpayers are paying more overall even with fewer workers on the job. … more

Reality Check: Governor’s Budget 'Poor Mouthing'

Gov. Jennifer Granholm cried poverty yesterday, claiming that her administration already cut 11,000 state employees and that the state cannot make further cuts without lowering "critical services that struggling families count on to survive in this tough economy." However, thanks to higher compensation levels, taxpayers are paying more overall even with fewer workers on the job. … more

MEA Complains About More Money To Spend On Education?

The Michigan Education Association protested in Lansing yesterday to demand more taxpayer money to go to the public school system and to protest recent public school pension reforms. But the pension reforms will allow districts to have more resources to devote to improving education. … more

Michigan Unemployment Rate Down to 13.6 Percent

New data was released yesterday from Michigan's Office of Labor Market Information that indicates Michigan's economy may be recovering. … more

Michigan Unemployment Rate Down to 13.6 Percent

New data was released yesterday from Michigan's Office of Labor Market Information that indicates Michigan's economy may be recovering. … more

Service Tax Is Bad Policy

The service tax is bad policy for Michigan. Legislators should resist the temptation to pass this tax hike as the budget deadline approaches. … more

Michigan Taxpayers Have Already Made Compromises

Fact-Checking and Adding Context to the Governor’s Economic Diversity Speech

In a speech on diversifying the state economy at the Mackinac Policy Conference today, Gov. Jennifer Granholm stated that diversification efforts through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. have brought 919 "companies or expansions" to Michigan. She also stated that health care is the state's largest industry. One claim is without context and the other is incorrect. … more

States With More College Grads Don't Have Better Economies

Evidence suggests that a single-minded focus on increasing the proportion of a state's population with college degrees is a dead end for improving the state's economy. … more

'Out of Balance' and Bad at Math

A new paper from the National Institute on Retirement Security uses convoluted calculations to argue that public-sector employees receive wages that are 11 percent to 12 percent below private-sector averages. When calculated in a straightforward way, however, the alleged wage disparity disappears. … more

Michigan Tax Burden Grows Despite Claims to the Contrary

Per capita figures make Michigan seem worse off by comparison to other states since population is less responsive to economic changes than are tax revenues. Still, Michigan's per capita tax burden increased over the past decade. … more

Michigan Service Tax Defended by Phantom Facts

State Employee Pay Grows 25 Percent Above Inflation Since 1999

State Employee Pay Grows 25 Percent Above Inflation Since 1999

The average state employee compensation package costs approximately $93,039. Inflation-adjusted wages and benefits have increased 25 percent since fiscal 1999. The figures include the value of all benefits from state-paid retirement contributions to dry cleaning allowances. … more

Analysis of Michigan Film Subsidies: Two Years, $117m - and No Film Job Growth

It has been two years since Michigan's film subsidy program became law, which is sufficient for it to have gotten off the ground and had some measureable impact on the state's economy. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18 months after its launch there were 9.8 percent fewer people employed by the film industry in Michigan than when the subsidy program began. … more

Michigan Film Subsidies: Two Years, $117 Million and No Film Job Growth

It has been two years since Michigan's film subsidy program became law, which is sufficient for it to have gotten off the ground and had some measureable impact on the state's economy. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18 months after its launch there were 9.8 percent fewer people employed by the film industry in Michigan than when the subsidy program began. … more

Facts for Tax Day in Michigan

Today is April 15, the last day to file your 2009 tax return. Protests are happening around the state alleging rampant growth of government, overtaxation and overregulation.
Here are some facts about taxes in Michigan. … more

Facts for Tax Day in Michigan

Today is April 15, the last day to file your 2009 tax return. Protests are happening around the state alleging rampant growth of government, overtaxation and overregulation.
Here are some facts about taxes in Michigan. … more

Taxpayers Never Get Early Retirement

Michigan Public Employees Compensation Growing Despite Concessions Claims

Spokespersons for Michigan government employee unions contend that they have given up hundreds of millions of dollars in wages and benefit concessions over the past few years. The claims are in dispute, and data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis offers some support for those challenging them. It shows that since 2000, government employee compensation in Michigan has increased 11.4 percent, while private sector employees are getting 5.1 percent less. … more

Michigan Public Employees Compensation Growing Despite Concessions Claims

Spokespersons for Michigan government employee unions contend that they have given up hundreds of millions of dollars in wages and benefit concessions over the past few years. The claims are in dispute, and data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis offers some support for those challenging them. It shows that since 2000, government employee compensation in Michigan has increased 11.4 percent, while private sector employees are getting 5.1 percent less. … more

Michigan Employment and Personal Incomes Better, But…

Two releases from government statistical agencies this week show that the state's economy is still pretty bad, but that its long fall may have finally bottomed out. The state unemployment rate is 14.1 percent, down from its peak. Michigan's per capita personal income was down again, but Michigan was not the worst in the country. … more

Michigan Employment and Personal Incomes Better, But…

Two releases from government statistical agencies this week show that the state's economy is still pretty bad, but that its long fall may have finally bottomed out. The state unemployment rate is 14.1 percent, down from its peak. Michigan's per capita personal income was down again, but Michigan was not the worst in the country. … more

Census Data: State Economy Suffering More Than State Budget

New Census Data: Michigan Economy Suffering More Than State Budget

New Census Bureau data published today confirm a trend shown in previous releases: While the amount of tax revenue flowing into the Michigan treasury has fallen, the state's tax trends look brighter than the state's economy. … more

What Transparency Should Look Like at the MEDC (but Doesn't)

The award of a $9.1 million tax credit to a convicted embezzler has raised serious concerns about the lack of transparency at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The concerns could be alleviated by two transparency/due diligence reforms that would protect the state (and taxpayers) from fraud. However, the real issue is not whether the occasional criminal wins an "incentive" deal, but the lack of transparency that characterizes this entire operation. This is the measure by which the responses of politicians and economic development bureaucrats to this embarrassment should assessed. … more

MEGA Jobs Announcements Symbolic Drop in the Bucket

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority yesterday approved its latest batch of tax credits to lure large business projects to Michigan.
Despite the press release, these big business projects are just not that consequential to Michigan's total economy.  … more

Legislative Pay Evidence of a Larger Problem

Supposed Benefits of Pension Obligation Bonds Sink With Market

Michigan legislators who might consider borrowing billions to prop up government employee pension and post-retirement health care benefits should first look at recent developments in California. That state's massive state pension system, CalPERS, may lower its expectations for investment returns. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is considering a drop in its return expectations from 7.75 percent to as low as 5 or 6 percent. … more

Michigan Service Tax Proves (Groucho) Marx Correct

Employment Creation in Michigan Illustrates the Ineffectiveness of the State's Incentives

The latest Business Employment Dynamics numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that from the third quarter of 2008 through the second quarter of 2009, 778,025 jobs were created in Michigan and 1,144,655 jobs disappeared. Among other things, the figures starkly illustrate just how ineffective the state's economic incentive programs are. … more

Service Tax: $1.3 Billion Tax Hike on Thousands of Services

The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency has performed an initial review of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's executive budget recommendation, which reveals that the proposed service tax would actually raise taxes by $1.3 billion — much more than the $900 million originally reported. … more

Michigan: A National Leader in Tax Hikes

Gov. Jennifer Granholm argues (with some remorse) that during her seven-year tenure, Michigan has cut more from its budget than any other state. The claim is dubious, but another milestone about which she does not boast is verifiable: Since Gov. Granholm's first inauguration in January 2003, Michigan has led the nation in tax increases.
States rely on four major taxes to finance their general operations: income, sales, business and tobacco taxes. Gov. Granholm has signed into law increases in three of these: tobacco taxes in 2004 and business and income taxes in 2007. Only two other states, Maryland and New York, have increased all three of these taxes since 2002. … more

Gubernatorial Fact Check

In presenting her executive budget, Gov. Jennifer Granholm stated, "I have cut more state spending than any governor in Michigan history, having resolved more than $10 billion in deficits since 2003." It's unnecessary to state that one of those budgets was "resolved" with a $1.4 billion tax hike — not exactly cutting more than anyone — but even the $10 billion is an overstatement. … more

Which Would You Choose: Growth or Economic Decline?

No, we wouldn't want to be like Mississippi. Flint wouldn't want to be like Dallas. Those places have like, economic growth and stuff. … more

Michigan’s Brains Remain Constant

The exodus of young and educated young people from Michigan is one of those “clear, simple and wrong” explanations often cited as a factor in Michigan’s poor economic performance. The reality is that young people are already highly mobile even in a good economy, and that even in Michigan’s ongoing bad times, we're actually doing pretty well in attracting college graduates to the state. … more

Governor’s Tax Hike Proposals Increase Already Juiced System

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm introduced a series of tax hikes today to raise more revenue to cover its overspending. But adding a tax hike would increase the revenue to a system that's already giving Lansing more revenue than typical among states. … more

Governor Wrong About Headlee Limits

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm presented her executive budget today. In it, she argues that Michigan needs to raise taxes in the over the next few years because its revenues are far below its constitutional revenue limit. She states, "The gap has grown as a result of the economic downturn and is anticipated to widen further as currently enacted tax changes take effect in the next several years." … more

Don’t Blame Mexico for Michigan’s Problems

In her State of the State address last week, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm listed the reasons why she believes the state's economy has fallen. "We all know the reasons — trade policies that dismantled factories here and built them in Mexico, the auto industry in meltdown, the banking crisis, the mortgage crisis, and on top of all that, a severe national recession." While the latter reasons may have played their part, company and job relocation to Mexico has been the least of Michigan's problems. Furthermore, trade with Mexico has actually been a bright spot for the state. … more

Headlee’s Social Welfare Problem

The Lowdown

Michigan Unemployment: Topping the Charts for 46 Months

Michigan's unemployment rate of 14.6 percent was the highest in the country, according to today's release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The next closest state was Nevada, which increased to 13.0 percent. … more

Get the Data on Michigan Support Service Contracting

Part of the new Michigan Senate Republicans' spending reform proposal would mandate public school districts to seek competitive bids for food, custodial and transportation services. The Mackinac Center surveys each district annually to see whether they contract out for these services. You can view the 2009 survey results here… more

Beware Michigan Tax “Restructuring”

Lansing policymakers are discussing plans to shift taxes around and are being supported by some faulty observations. Some of them made their way into an op-ed by Susan Demas in The Detroit News. She noted, "Michiganders have gone from paying 9.5 percent of their incomes in taxes in 1999 to 7 percent today."
Actually, Michiganders pay much more in taxes. These are simply figures from the state's Headlee amendment revenue limit calculations, which do not count local or federal figures, nor all of the state's non-federal revenues. Adding local tax burdens increases the figure to 10.7 percent. Overall, Michigan citizens face a much broader burden of government. The federal government takes in 21.6 percent of the entire country's personal income and Michigan pays its share, leaving Michigan citizens tax burdens around 30 percent instead of 7.
Besides, the state tax system is very good at capturing revenues from growing economies. That's largely the reason why state government coffers were closer to the Headlee cap in the high-growth 90s. But Michigan has not grown in a long time. … more

Michigan Government Revenue Forecasted to Increase, But …

Yesterday, forecasters from the Michigan House Fiscal Agency, Senate Fiscal Agency and Treasury Department met to agree on an estimate for the next fiscal year's state revenues. These revenues are important because coupled with spending figures, they tell us whether fiscal 2011 will result in a surplus or deficit.
Despite Michigan's poor economy, state government revenue is expected to increase from this year to next. Nevertheless, the state is expected to spend $1.6 billion more than it receives in revenues… more

Michigan's Tax System Is Much Better Than Michigan’s Economy

Even with an expected budget overspending crisis of $1.8 billion next year, Michigan government's revenue situation is doing much better than the rest of the economy.
State tax receipts are largely determined by how well a state's economy is doing. When workers earn more, they pay more income taxes. When consumers buy more, they pay more in sales taxes.
Because of those ties to the economy, every state's tax base is naturally exposed to cyclical factors. But each state responds differently. Over the past year, Michigan's has been far less responsive to the recession than most states. … more

How to Find and Eliminate Wasted State Money

Busting Your Michigan Industry Myths

The idea that agriculture is Michigan's second-largest industry is a piece of conventional wisdom often iterated, in fact, so much that a Google search for "second largest industry" returns Michigan's iterations of the idea. Yet this is false. Agriculture is nowhere near as large as most Michigan industries. … more

Michigan Still Has Highest Unemployment, But …

New state-by-state unemployment figures were released today which showed that Michigan remains the state with the highest unemployment rate for the 45th consecutive month. But overall, its rate decreased along with 35 other states. … more

Why State Economic Development Programs Fail to Fix Michigan

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority is the state's premiere economic incentive program and accounts for much of the state's "job creation" announcements.
But most of the job gains and losses in the state are unheralded. Consider this chart of quarterly job gains, losses and MEGA announcements. … more

What It Doesn’t Take To Grow Michigan

In a recent Grand Rapids Press column, Lou Glazer argued that there's a correlation between a state getting more college graduates and enjoying higher statewide income levels.
However, Glazer uses only snapshot views of what the per capita personal income or economic output is in a state right now. He ignores trends. But you can't just wear a white suit to become Mark Twain, you have to grow to the role. … more

Higher Education “Underinvestment” Provides a Return

It's often repeated in the halls of government and the state-focused media that Michigan "underinvests" in higher education. The facts suggest otherwise.
In 2003, Michigan had the seventh highest spending among the states on public universities. Appropriations here have been fairly level since then, but we were still the 10th-biggest higher ed spender in 2008. Even with sideways revenues for half the decade, Michigan has been surpassed only by Ohio, Pennsylvania and Georgia in total dollars devoted to higher education. … more

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2009

With Michigan’s public school districts facing a decline in per-pupil funding, more districts are contracting out for at least one of the three major school support services — food, custodial and transportation — than ever before. This year’s survey of school districts found that 44.6 percent of all Michigan school districts contract out for at least one of these services, a 5.6 percent increase over 2008. This year, new contracts alone are expected to save $6.9 million. … more

Smith Tax Hike Solves Non-Existent Problem

Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Salem, proposed imposing a graduated income tax on Michigan individuals, and also extending the sales tax to services. She expects these hikes to extract an additional $6.5 billion from families and businesses here.
Rep. Smith and others seeking tax hikes (on both sides of the aisle) often claim that because of changes in the state's economy Michigan's tax system extracts fewer dollars per unit of economic activity than it did in an earlier era.
They are mistaken. Indeed, in its ability to suck revenue from a given level of (declining) economic activity, Michigan's tax system has outperformed 31 other states over the past year, despite being affixed to the nation's worst economy. This fact contradicts the claims of would-be tax raisers that our system is "broken" and needs to be "modernized." … more

Michigan Has Best Job Growth Since 90s, But…

Michigan had the best job creation it has had since the boom 1990s last month. The state added 38,600 jobs in a single month, a gain of 1.0 percent. The last time the state added more than 1 percent in a single month was in August 1998 when GM workers returned to work after a month-long strike.
Here's a look at recent monthly job gains and losses: … more

The Mississippi Example

Michigan Should Commercialize Its Rest Areas

School Privatization Survey Shows Gains in Support Service Contracting

Inspection Competition: Townships Find They Have Options

How Bad Is the Housing Market in Michigan?

The state archeologist office, which traces the remains of human civilization and industry, is now found in the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
Seriously… more

Auto Industry a “Bit Player” in State Fiscal Woes

Michigan politicians are fond of blaming the domestic auto industry's decline for all the state's problems. But "auto industry" just doesn't mean what it used to here. For example, domestic auto sales have fallen by 49.8 percent since their 1999 peak. Over the same period, however, inflation-adjusted state tax and fee revenues have only declined by 15.9 percent. … more

Michigan’s Juiced Revenue System

Advocates of higher taxes frequently claim that Michigan's tax system is "out of sync" with the current economy, and needs to be "restructured" in ways that ensure more steady (and larger) extraction of revenues. But when it comes to extracting revenue from a declining tax base, Michigan has been taking a larger proportion of the population's wealth and income, not less. It's also been "outcompeting" other states in this regard. … more