I Don’t Have Answers to These Questions

There aren't always easy answers to policy questions

A big part of my job is answering policy-related questions. Some can be handled quickly, some take longer. Others require an in-depth study. But there are some that I just can’t answer.

Here are a few that came up recently.

How many jobs are actually at wind farms in Michigan? Wind energy was pitched as the next big thing, but wind farms probably don’t require many workers once they are established.

Why did lawmakers not close the school retirement system in 2012? I know that it was not the illusory transition costs issue that some claimed. Lawmakers made some major reforms — including to retiree health care benefits — but the plan remained open and I don’t know why they refrained from taking that additional step.

Why isn’t more attention being paid to the state income tax rate? The rate was supposed to be lowered after the 2007 tax hikes, but the reductions went away during the 2011 tax reforms. These rates have a much larger impact on the state budget — and each and every family budget — than the much-discussed pension tax.

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How do public electric utilities actually make money? In a regulated market, it is not likely by selling more electricity to customers.

Why aren’t there more independent advocates for policies? We meet with a lot of member-driven groups to talk about our work. Their leaders seem to find it strange that the Mackinac Center has views on policy issues and connects with people who have similar views, instead of having members that determine our stances.

What is the proportion of Michigan residents who believe that agriculture is the state’s second-largest industry? Industry spokesmen have made that claim for a while, but the agriculture’s economic importance is much smaller than you would expect.

Why have there been corruption charges against Detroit Public School employees? The district’s been under state-appointed emergency managers for some time now, and the law is designed to fix mismanagement. After all, you can’t steal thousands from your employer unless your employer is mismanaging millions.

Why don’t municipal interest groups promise something in return for more money? They’ve been asking for more money from state taxpayers as far back as I can remember, yet I don’t recall them ever saying how they would use this additional money to benefit people. Promising to improve services seems like a more effective tactic.

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