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After news that the state is going to collect even more in tax revenue than the increases that were already expected, Michigan legislators voted again to cut taxes. A bill reducing the income tax rate to 4% passed the House with some bipartisan support and the Senate with Republican support.

A new report by the advocacy group Education Trust-Midwest omits important recent information that fails to support its thesis about Michigan’s highly “regressive” school funding system.

Ed Trust-Midwest, a Royal Oak-based affiliate of The Education Trust in Washington, D.C., recognizes that literacy among younger Michigan students is stagnating. The group projects that, if trends continue, the state’s fourth graders will fall from 32nd to 39th in reading on national tests by 2030. A pillar of the report’s plan to improve student achievement is a call to fund schools more fairly. Yet in making that call, the report critically leaves out some funding sources and some schools.

The story is hard to believe: A mayor and police chief conducted a “fire inspection” of a building where medical marijuana was being grown and seized the property for a year and a half without charging anyone with a crime. They then tried to get the property owners to buy two new vehicles for the police department in exchange for returning the property.

Michigan has lost half its auto jobs since the beginning of this century. But it has not lost anything close to half its overall total jobs. This is because the state economy is much more complex than its reputation.

Auto manufacturing has not been a great industry for job growth. Michigan has a declining share of a diminishing market. The state’s share of the auto industry is down, as is its total number of auto jobs. Michigan had 27% of the nation’s auto and auto parts manufacturing jobs in 1990. Today that share is 18%. The peak number of auto jobs in Michigan did not come in a mythical post-war golden age some old timers may be thinking of. The peak occurred in 2000.

Some people think that citizens ought to be told about anyone who donates to policy and political organizations. Others think that the only use for this information is to harass political opponents. Heather Lauer is the executive director of People United for Privacy and firmly thinks that disclosure rules are being abused to silence opponents. She’s gotten a dozen states to adopt donor privacy laws. I spoke with her for the Overton Window podcast.

Supply chain problems are causing a shortage in many auto parts, making fewer cars available and pushing up prices for the vehicles that are out there. This in turn is prompting a “rental car apocalypse” – a scarcity of vehicles to rent and higher prices for the rental cars that are available.

State governments are taking what seems to be a practical step toward understanding the actual value of a college education: websites that purport to quantify the worth of a diploma in dollars and cents. But Michigan shouldn’t feel the need to follow suit.

One cliché from the political class is that candidates will go anywhere and do anything for jobs. Anything, it seems, except finding out whether their methods are actually creating jobs.

Politicians seem genuinely to believe that they are practical people and that giving private companies special deals for subsidies, tax breaks, loans and other favors is necessary to help the state. Except that giving taxpayer money to favored companies is not practical, and the numbers clearly bear out that negative assessment. You need heavy ideological blinders to believe that corporate handouts are a good thing.

“What am I paying my taxes for?”

That’s the question that occurs to a homeowner wondering why their street is littered with potholes. Or a mother wondering why her child’s school was closed but others were not. Or a taxpayer wondering why a government employee won’t get back about a basic tax or licensing question.

Eight years ago, a bipartisan bill repealed the requirement for Michigan dietitians and nutritionists to get a state occupational license. The law was unwieldy and ineffective, and lawmakers were right to strike it down. But a bill currently in the legislature brings back this misguided state regulation.

Nuclear energy has come back into the headlines in recent weeks, which means naysayers are already appearing with stories of impending apocalypse.

Renewed interest in nuclear energy – typified by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s very late effort to get federal funding to keep open the Palisades Nuclear Generating Station – comes as global warming fears run headlong into the inability of wind and solar power to provide reliable, affordable electricity. Like the politically popular so-called green energies, nuclear power does not emit carbon dioxide. Unlike those, it produces a large amount of reliable energy, accounting for more than a quarter of Michigan energy consumption as of 2018.

An abundance of extra COVID cash doesn’t guarantee schools will set the right priorities. Even when they focus on helping students make up for lost time learning, districts may not adopt effective approaches.

In 2020 and 2021, the federal government approved a combined total of $6 billion in additional K-12 funding in response to the pandemic. Sizable increases in state aid have ensured record funding to Michigan schools. Yet as of April, about 80% of the extra dollars Congress kicked in remain on the table. The slow rollout follows a national trend.

When governors shut down their states’ economies in March 2020, a number of citizens started to ask where they got the power to do that. Governors’ seemingly endless authority to issue arbitrary orders prompted legislators in some states to alter the authority they’d given governors in emergencies. Daniel Dew, legal policy director of the Pacific Legal Foundation, and Mackinac Center director of research Michael Van Beek, who did a deep dive on the history of Michigan’s emergency authorization laws, join me to discuss these efforts on this week’s Overton Window podcast.

The leak to Politico of the United States Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade upon official release, is a dangerous departure from the centuries-held practice of allowing our nation’s highest Court to deliberate and interpret our constitutional freedoms without fear of incurring political coercion, retribution or violence.

Unnamed private companies are getting a chance to rewrite state law in order to get hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

The state legislature created a slate of new programs last December to give an unnamed company taxpayer support, putting $1 billion into a fund for administrators to negotiate. The company was also unnamable because lawmakers signed nondisclosure agreements in order to be briefed about the details.

The boards of a handful of Michigan counties have taken it upon themselves to weigh in on the state’s auto insurance laws. Several others, such as Midland County, are considering joining them. These counties all agree: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature must undo some of the long-awaited reforms they agreed to in 2019, reforms that are saving Michigan drivers hundreds of dollars per year.

May 11 update: After this post was published, a reader commented that the total income figures did not reflect the $4,900 personal exemption that all Michigan personal income tax filers are allowed to deduct on their annual returns. We have updated the spreadsheet to re-label “total income” as “gross income” with the pre-exemption amounts, added a “net income” column that shows the post-exemption amounts, and recalculated the tax capture columns based on net income.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s sudden embrace of the Palisades Nuclear Plant is both bittersweet and long overdue.

Whitmer asked U.S. taxpayers for more money Wednesday to maintain the nuclear generating station on Lake Michigan, which is slated to close May 31.

It should be hard for state lawmakers to cut taxes. Unlike the U.S. Congress, they have to balance the state budget each year, which means any dollar in tax cuts reduces spending or the growth of the state budget. The beneficiaries of the spending have a strong incentive to keep it going, while the beneficiaries of tax cuts tend to gain only a little from tax cuts. It’s a classic problem of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. Yet, more than a dozen states have cut taxes in the past year. Mississippi is the most recent state, and I spoke with Russ Latino, president of Empower Mississippi about it for the Overton Window podcast.

Former State Rep. Jon Hoadley was rejected by the Michigan Senate for his appointment to the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees. I have no idea whether Hoadley was a good selection for the school’s board. I don’t know what the people who voted against his appointment thought about him, either. The controversy, however, demonstrates that Michigan’s state universities would be better off as independent nonprofit schools.

The $208 each Michigan household would have saved from a tax rate reduction was too much for Gov. Whitmer, who vetoed the cut, calling it “unsustainable.” But based on the budget the governor proposed, a better explanation is that she prefers to spend more money than to let people keep more of what they earn.

Michigan parents may soon get some of the same help Ohio parents are now receiving to cover for extra education expenses.

Ohio’s Afterschool Child Enrichment or ACE account program opened to parents Monday, the Buckeye Institute reports. Eligible families – including those earning up to about $83,000 a year for a family of four – can receive $500 to cover the costs of “tutoring, curricula, day camp fees, language and music classes, and field trips.” Recipients are free to decide which services and providers they will enlist to help their child catch up from pandemic-related challenges.

This article originally appeared in Bridge Michigan March 23 2022.

Families should have opportunities to get more information from schools that can help them provide a motivating and effective education.

Yet today parents in different parts of the state are hampered in their efforts to see what their children are taught. Forest Hills Public Schools in west Michigan sent a $400,000 bill to parents who formally sought documents that show how racial issues are being presented in the classroom. More recently, a Rochester mom filed suit with help from the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation after her district stonewalled requests to view the list of materials used in a particular high school course and the associated teacher training.

This article originally appeared in The Hill March 23, 2022.

How devastating would it be for a state to lose all the energy from its vast wind-power apparatus in the middle of a global energy crisis? Michigan is about to find out.

The state soon will lose at least 5.8 million annual megawatt hours of carbon dioxide-free energy production. That’s an amount equal to all the energy produced by the wind industry that Michigan has built up over the past 13 years, at a cost of more than $5 billion.

Elected officials in Washington, DC dragged seven oil and gas executives into hearings last week, demanding they defend themselves against congressional claims that the industry is “gouging [Americans] at the gas station.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee held the hearing to repeat price gouging charges that date back at least to the 1974 oil embargo and that have never held up to scrutiny. Elected officials, apparently eager to deflect attention from the impacts of their own policies or to garner a helpful pre-election headline, point fingers in every direction except their own.