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Five Options for Addressing ‘Transition Costs’ When Closing the MPSERS Pension Plan

Michigan Public School Employee Retirement Plans
in Need of Reform

This study considers the supposed ‘transition costs’ that would be effected by a state switch from a defined-benefit to defined-contribution retirement system. In it, the “transition costs” are found to be nonbinding and discretionary. In addition, the study offers the state a series of reforms that would diffuse such costs, as well as consideration for the long-term fiscal improvements that would arise from payment of the pension’s unfunded liabilities. more

Loar v. Michigan Department of Human Services Brief

This booklet contains the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation’s final legal filing in a nationally known case involving the illegal unionization of Michigan’s home-based day care business owners and providers as government employees. Wright argued the case in the Michigan courts on behalf of Sherry Loar, Michelle Berry and Paulette Silverson, who each own home-based day care businesses.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sued to end the DHS' illegal diversion of so-called "union dues" from state subsidy checks received by home-based day care providers who watch children from low-income families. The "dues" were funneled to a government-employee union that purports to represent more than 40,000 of Michigan's home-based day care providers, who are actually private business owners and independent contractors.

The case was ruled moot by the Michigan Supreme Court after the DHS ceased to collect the dues and the DHS director stated that these home-based day care providers are not public employees.

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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.

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Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling: A 2016 Update

Click here to view the PDF of the full study.

Introduction

Since 2008 the Mackinac Center for Public Policy — and more recently in conjunction with the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation — has worked to estimate the degree to which cigarettes are smuggled into and out of American states. Our research, and that of other scholars too, suggests that smuggling is a rampant problem, particularly in states with high cigarette excise taxes.

Unintended and unforeseen consequences are a frequent problem in public policy. Few politicians realize when they vote for higher excise taxes that doing so may dramatically increase cigarette-related crime, such as smuggling. These crimes not only deprive local and state governments of tax revenues, they also tend to descend into violence, which produces all sorts of unnecessary damage. Policymakers should take these realities into consideration when contemplating how much to tax cigarettes.

This report analyzes the relationship between cigarette tax rates and cigarette smuggling rates. It relies on the same statistical model used in our previous studies, but uses the latest available data from 2014. New York State once again claims the highest smuggling rate in the nation. In fact, according to our analysis, New Yorkers consume more smuggled cigarettes than they do legally taxed ones. New York state has the highest excise tax rate on cigarettes in the country at $4.35 per pack and New York City adds another $1.50 tax. Arizona, Washington state, New Mexico and Minnesota round out the top five states for percentage of in-bound smuggling. Michigan ranks 12th, down two positions.

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Problems With Estimating the Union Wage Premium

Click here to view the PDF of the full study.

The “union wage premium” — the amount a union worker makes in wages and salary above a similar nonunion worker — is often used to highlight the potential value of joining a union. Unions claim that if workers unionize, their wages will increase, because allegedly the average union worker makes more than the average nonunion worker. If this were universally true, it seems like a compelling argument for enrolling in a union. However, the decline in union membership rates over the last several decades shows that an increasing number of workers have not been persuaded to join existing unions or organize new ones, suggesting that they are not convinced that becoming a union member will automatically boost their pay.

Some still maintain that union members earn significantly more, on average, than nonunion workers: the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations union says that “union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts” and the U.S. Secretary of Labor claims that union workers make $950 per week compared to nonunion workers’ $750 per week. But these statistics are based on a relatively simplistic view of the data. As this paper will demonstrate, there are significant challenges to using official government data to estimate the size of the union wage premium.

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Michigan School Privatization Survey 2010

Privatization of support services has been a method that Michigan school districts have used for several years to lower costs. More than ever before, Michigan school districts are privatizing the three main support services they offer — food, custodial and transportation. Our annual survey finds that 48.8 percent of Michigan school districts are contracting out for these services. This is an 8 percent increase over 2009.

The largest impetus for contracting is cost savings. The survey found that first-year contracts alone are expected to save districts $16.7 million cumulatively.

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Howell Education Association v. Howell Board of Education

Just what constitutes a public record? Are documents created by a public official on a public computer system “public records” under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act? In this "friend of the court" brief, Mackinac Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright argues the answer is “yes” and warns that a failure to readily disclose such documents would seriously undermine FOIA's value.

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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.

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