One Democratic lawmaker tried to defund multi-million dollar program; others calling for investigation into unsubstantiated ROI claims
Monday, May 8, 2017
MIDLAND — As state-funded tourism agencies and others across the country begin a week-long celebration of their industry, several lawmakers are trying to do right by taxpayers and either stop the wasteful Pure Michigan program or investigate claims of its effectiveness.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Director of Fiscal Policy, Michael LaFaive — a long-time critic of Pure Michigan — applauded representatives Henry Yanez, D-Sterling Heights, Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, and Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, for their recent efforts to protect taxpayers.
During last week’s budget debate in Lansing, Rep. Yanez introduced an amendment to stop funding the Pure Michigan program, which will cost taxpayers $34 million over the next year. Howyrlak and Johnson have called upon the Auditor General to investigate the methodology used by a secretive state contractor to measure the program’s supposed return on investment.
“It’s refreshing to see lawmakers take a public stand against a program that is such a poor use of limited state funds,” said Michael LaFaive, co-author of a study on state-funded tourism programs.
The amendment, which ultimately failed on a voice vote, came days before National Travel and Tourism Week, which runs May 7-13. LaFaive said this week, coupled with the fast-approaching summer tourism season, is a good time to remind the public that Pure Michigan fails to deliver as an economic development tool.
“Our study of 48 states over a 39-year period finds that for every additional dollar spent by taxpayers promoting their state, only 20 cents in extra activity is generated in the accommodations industry, and other industries fared worse,” LaFaive said. “That’s a large negative return on investment.”
LaFaive also reissued his invite to Michigan tourism officials — including to Deanna Richeson, head of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association — to publicly debate the effectiveness of Pure Michigan. Despite refusing to debate Center scholars, she recently made an unsubstantiated claim against the Center’s findings.
“We’ve long urged the state to hold tourism officials accountable to their claims that these expenditures provide a positive return on investment, but Pure Michigan continues to lack transparency,” LaFaive said. “If Pure Michigan is worth the cost, show us.”
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