Blog

What’s it called if you bail someone out who’s not in trouble?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the federal government to give states more money as part of an additional pandemic relief spending deal. Yet the state budget has increased — both despite the pandemic and because of it. Spending is up despite the pandemic because revenue has recovered. And it’s up because of the pandemic, since federal relief efforts have put much more into the state budget than the state lost in tax revenue.

In this pandemic year, more Michigan parents are seeking alternatives to their children’s schooling routines than could have been imagined a year ago. Though it’s not yet clear just how many parents have voted with their feet, new evidence suggests that thousands fewer are sending their children to the local district to start their K-12 careers.

On Sept. 30 the Michigan Civil Rights Commission released a report designed to highlight and address the unfair distribution of educational opportunities. “An adequate education is a civil right and it belongs to every child among us,” the report declares, before ironically advocating that some lesser-funded schools serving more black and brown children should be further shortchanged.

Previously, I wrote to address the practical effects of the newly adopted Michigan Civil Service Commission rules, as well as unions’ failed attempt to challenge those rules. Now that the rules are effective, we can examine their impact.

State lawmakers routinely joust over scarce state resources. There always seems to be high priority public goods in which the state wishes to invest. The administrations of Gov. Rick Snyder and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for example, advanced tax hike plans to spend more on state roads and bridges. The Mackinac Center has an idea to raise tax revenues that both Republicans and Democrats should love.

Four days after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against her use of emergency powers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared at a press conference that she did nothing wrong.

California, long known as the Golden State, has had an unfortunate method of reinforcing that moniker during the 2020 wildfire season. Ash and smoke from massive wildfires have often tinted the state’s skies an apocalyptic gold-red, leaving residents and wildlife longing for an end to the blazes. A new report from Arizona’s Goldwater Institute and the Mackinac Center shows us the way forward. But the solution offered in “Extinguishing the Wildfire Threat: Lessons from Arizona” isn’t what you’ll typically hear from any of the governors commenting on this issue, or from the media.

Last month, the unions representing Michigan’s civil service employees sued the Michigan Civil Service Commission because it adopted new rules requiring employees to annually opt in to dues deductions. That lawsuit included a request for an injunction to prevent those rules from going into effect until the lawsuit was decided. Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied that request.

State lawmakers should compete for jobs by having the best business climate and maintaining the best quality of life for residents. But lawmakers often decide to compete over who can offer the most generous special treatment through tax breaks or subsidies. This competition is unfair to businesses who don’t get favors, can be very expensive to the state and is ineffective at creating jobs. Still, lawmakers justify this favoritism by pointing out that they have to compete with other states who also offer special treatment in an effort to attract or keep businesses in their states.

The new 2021 state budget takes effect tomorrow. Spending increased noticeably since fiscal 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, but it was mixed in the area of corporate and industrial handouts. Funding for them was down from the previous year, but it should be cut to $0. Research repeatedly shows state jobs program subsidies to be an ineffective development tool.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on September 5, 2020. 

The Trump administration and congressional leaders are at loggerheads over another COVID-19 relief package that may effectively provide state and local governments with another bailout. Discussions suggest it would range from $200 billion to $1 trillion. Our view is that it should be zero. There are too many negative consequences associated with going more deeply into debt, particularly when there are superior solutions available.

Some Michigan citizens face significant mental health challenges, and it is likely only getting worse following the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last several decades, Michigan has transitioned individuals with mental illnesses out of state hospitals and into community-based inpatient facilities. While this makes treatment and the location of services more convenient for families, the total number of community-based inpatient psychiatric beds has fallen by nearly 30% for adults and over 60% for children over the same time. This shortage means that patients with mental illnesses may not receive care when they need it and require longer waits in emergency rooms or, in some cases, even jail cells.

Robert Gordon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services, recently argued before a legislative committee that Michigan’s experience with COVID-19 could have been much worse were it not for the actions of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. According to MIRS News (subscription required), Gordon used the death rates in Louisiana and Mississippi to argue that 4,600 or 2,600 more Michiganders would have died if Michigan had the death rates of those two states, respectively, implying the governor’s actions made the difference. This analysis is irresponsible and wrong.

Months after the response to the COVID-19 pandemic sent a shock through the economy and the education system, the Michigan Legislature approved Wednesday — with nearly unanimous support — record levels of state funding for schools. Lawmakers did not have to resort to federal coronavirus relief or the state’s rainy day fund to set next year’s budget, as they had to keep spending promises made the year before.

This morning, the Michigan House Government Operations Committee approved HB 6233. This bill, filed just eight days ago, would undercut a recent federal court settlement allowing electric vehicle manufacturers to sell directly to consumers in Michigan and instead shoehorn all (except Tesla) into Michigan’s archaic vehicle dealership regulatory structure. The bill could come to the House floor as early as this afternoon.

The unions representing Michigan’s civil service employees have sued the Michigan Civil Service Commission over its adoption of new rules requiring employees to annually opt in to dues deductions. They claim that this rule change violates the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution and interferes with the unions’ First Amendment rights. There are significant flaws in the unions’ arguments, however.

For decades, and especially in recent years, high-speed internet has been expanding rapidly. Consumers get much higher speeds for what they pay than they used to and networks are covering more areas. The vast majority of people are happy with their internet service.

Michigan’s laws governing the market for alcoholic beverages are largely designed to enrich a handful of people, in the name of public safety. That’s why the state needs to change its alcohol control policies, which ought to be about protecting the public against the intoxicant’s harms rather than allowing a select few to collect monopoly profits.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency executive orders lacked clarity from the start. They’ve required more than a thousand responses to frequently asked questions. Some confusion within the initial orders can be expected and is understandable. But the governor's latest orders, issued more than six months after she assumed control of the state’s response to COVID-19, are as confusing as the earliest ones.

Lawmakers are working on the fiscal year 2021 budget and they will be finished soon. To their credit, both legislators and the governor agreed to cut corporate welfare spending in the current fiscal year. For 2021, they should take another swipe and cut it down, preferably to zero. Research by scholars at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and at universities has repeatedly shown such programs to be ineffective, if not harmful. They certainly don’t qualify as fair.

In the fall of 2014, the car dealers lobby promoted a bill in the Michigan Legislature that passed and stopped Tesla from selling cars directly to consumers. Simply by eliminating the word “its” from Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Franchise Act, the law suddenly prohibited car companies from opening their own show rooms or service centers in Michigan.