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Senate Bill 432: Expand subsidies for certain research and development operations: Passed 38 to 0 in the Senate

To exempt from property taxes certain nonprofit operations that do product research and development for business and industry and also get certain state "economic development" subsidies and grants.
See Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Some say the future belongs to the cities and states that can attract young people, especially those with college degrees. Talented young people, they argue, are the fountainheads of economic growth, and therefore, the places that will prosper in the future will attract them. But the theory doesn’t hold up when you consider data about where and when people migrate. Michigan lawmakers should resist the temptation to create policies intended to target this population.

Michigan Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, is imploring state administrators to use better assumptions when determining how much they are going to put into the school employee retirement system. The state owes the retirees and employees in the system a lot more than it has saved, and using better assumptions can help it pay down the debt faster.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on Feb. 10, 2020. 

While Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decided that she will borrow billions to repair roads, she still wants to raise taxes to pay down the debts and increase road spending. In this regard, she will remain at loggerheads with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Two cities in one of the wealthiest areas in Michigan, which already has several competing providers offering high-speed internet access, are pushing to create a government-owned network. There is little upside to this idea and lots of downside.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clearly has made school systems a funding priority in her new budget proposal. It offers more money for one of the state’s most troubled districts, in a way that’s long on promoting more conversations and short on offering real solutions.

Senate Resolution A: Oppose Heartwell's NRC nomination by defeating Mitterling's: Passed 20 to 16 in the Senate

To disapprove the appointment by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Anna Mitterling to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission. Reportedly the real target of this action by the Senate Republican majority is Whitmer’s nomination of former Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell to be the chair of this commission, which has "exclusive authority to regulate the taking of game and sportfish," and designates which species may or may not be hunted. Heartwell’s nomination is opposed by the National Rifle Association because of his role as a “state membership coordinator” of antigun groups organized by former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

In 2015, legislators voted to increase the state’s homestead property tax credit, which would give some homeowners around $206 million of their tax dollars back. A couple years later, Michigan lawmakers voted against lowering the state income tax rate, which would have amounted to taxpayers keeping $463 million and would have lowered the state budget by the same amount. While their different budgetary effects may have made the homestead property tax bill easier to pass, it may also be that broad tax cuts are just less popular than tax redistribution.

Less than two months after putting a prolonged budget debate to bed, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a sizable school aid spending increase for next year. Once again, she seeks a large funding boost for preschool, but this time wants funds to create a separate, more restrictive program.

The budget proposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is $61.9 billion, a record high for the state of Michigan. The state budget in the Great Lakes State has risen by nearly $15 billion in the past decade (or $11 billion when you don’t count federal funds). In percentage terms, that’s more than double the rate of inflation.

Michigan Education Association president Paula Herbart wrote an op-ed about what “Trump and DeVos” are “doing” to some public schools which will make them “suffer … even more.” It badly misses the mark, has a lot of factual errors, and by not putting things in proper context, gets a lot of things wrong.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer yesterday released her proposed $61.9 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2021. It calls for an increase in spending over 2020 for the state’s Pure Michigan tourism subsidy program and the line item that funds the Michigan Business Development Program. The former finances out-of-state advertising (among other items) to lure tourists to the Great Lake State. The latter is a corporate handout program that gives cash grants and loans chosen by state bureaucrats.

Gov. Whitmer intends to weaken a 2016 law that could hold back thousands of third-graders with serious reading struggles. This ignores a promising approach to getting these students the resources they need that doesn’t rely on socially promoting kids who can’t read. State leaders should stick with the law, while also focusing on another major piece of the literacy puzzle: teacher preparation.

My wife and I are going out on a date tonight. Our three kids — ages seven, five and two — will be left at home behind in an unregulated facility (our house) and cared for by an unlicensed practitioner (a teenage babysitter).

Sound scary? Or just a normal part of life, where we make judgment calls like this every day?

Michigan House Republicans, especially House Speaker Lee Chatfield, want to spend more on road repair without raising taxes. And to do this, they want to direct the sales tax that gets levied on fuel to road repair. They argue that the money people pay at the pump should go to fix roads. Opponents argue that this will hurt public schools, the primary beneficiary of sales tax revenue. But reprioritizing this revenue doesn’t have to lead to reduced school spending.

Some media are touting a new report as a road map to make Michigan school funding fairer. Yet the exorbitant price tag of their proposals and the exaggerated research claims used to justify them deserve more attention.

The real headline on Ed Trust-Midwest’s “Michigan School Funding: Crisis and Opportunity” should be that it ups the ante on popular prescriptions for more K-12 spending. Meanwhile, news accounts echoed the opening sentence of the group’s release, that “Michigan is now in the bottom five states nationwide for equitable school funding.” In other words, school districts with the fewest low-income students tend to receive more money than districts with higher poverty rates.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on January 16, 2019. 

Michigan revenue estimators believe that the state treasury will end the fiscal year with around $900 million left in the bank. Lawmakers are going to talk about what to do with some of this surplus, and other topics, as they start to budget for the next year. And they’re going to find that they have more to spend as economic growth continues to drive tax collections higher.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” is a quote from philosopher George Santayana. States like Michigan, Massachusetts, Vermont, and some local units of government are taking up prohibitions on flavored products, such as electronic cigarettes, menthol cigarettes or other flavored products. As they do so, we wonder how many elected officials remember, or care to remember, lessons about efforts to prohibit alcohol, or even marijuana. They are manifold, and lawmakers should ponder them before charging ahead.

In response to news reports that an increasing number of school districts are using long-term substitute teachers, a poll claims that the vast majority of Michigan residents want people to have more training before being able to teach. But mandating certification is unlikely to help this perceived problem.

Lawmakers have taken a newfound interest in interstate compacts to eliminate business subsidies. A version has been introduced in New York, Florida, New Hampshire, Hawaii and West Virginia. And there is another that covers Kansas City. It’s good that there are multiple approaches being taken, and there are lessons to be learned from the Kansas City agreement.

The presidential election year gives Michigan school districts an extra opportunity to ask local voters to raise taxes to finance construction projects. The approach of that extra election date highlights the need for a more inclusive and transparent election process.

Environmental issues sit at the top of many Michigander’s list of policy priorities for 2020. But discussions about electric vehicles, solar panels, climate change, animal rights and many other issues are often emotionally charged, and can easily morph into ideological warfare, with both sides digging in and resorting to lobbing rhetorical bombs at each other. Is there room for rational debate in 2020?