The Costly Part of Government-Owned Broadband

Government-led broadband projects leave taxpayers on the hook

Residents of 10 towns in Minnesota will see property tax hikes to cover a shortfall in subscriber revenues to a government-led broadband project. This should serve as a warning to municipalities in Michigan implementing or pursuing their own plans.

Ten cities and 17 townships in rural Minnesota created a cooperative and sold $13.7 million in bonds to help finance the construction of a $55 million fiber optic network. According to documents from the cooperative, reported by Tom Steward of the Center for the American Experiment, a $1 million revenue shortfall quickly developed, which will result in higher property taxes for some of the communities.

The network is meant to cover 6,200 homes and 3,000 subscribers were needed to break even. But only 2,000 actually signed up. As a result, the cooperative, RS Fiber, said they could not make the bond payments for two years, putting taxpayers on the hook.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

In Michigan, Traverse City and Holland have joined a few smaller municipalities in pursuing government-owned or operated broadband networks. Other areas, scared by the high costs and taxpayer commitment, have rejected similar proposals. These include Sharon Township and Laketown Township.

Government internet service is typically sold the same way everywhere: high-speed networks are needed to compete in the global economy and a larger network with more people can provide faster service at lower costs. But these promises rarely come true: A 2014 paper from the Mercatus Center analyzing 80 municipal broadband projects found little economic benefit to the communities pursuing them. And a 2017 report from the University of Pennsylvania found that only two of 20 municipal fiber projects generated enough revenue to cover their costs.

That’s because most projects are sold with rosy projections, especially about the number of households that will sign up. And when there are shortfalls, taxpayers pick up the bill.

The good news is that the Michigan Legislature and Federal Communications Commission have pursued ways to expand access to broadband internet with market forces, chiefly by limiting local fees and streamlining permitting. Internet speeds have been increasing for decades while costs have been flat or in decline thanks to a competitive private market, and, in some cases, in spite of government interference.


Related Articles:

Want Faster Internet? What Rural Communities Should Explore

Traverse City Should Avoid Risky Public Internet

Government Internet Coming to Traverse City

Legislature Looking to Streamline Internet Services

Smart Regs for Smart Tech: How Government Can Allow Next Gen Internet Networks to Flourish

Serve the Public by Protecting the Integrity of Evidence in Criminal Proceedings

How a forensic science commission would help protect citizens

Michigan lawmakers are expected to hear testimony soon on an important bill designed to ensure that no more innocent Michiganders are wrongfully convicted and imprisoned on the basis of bad forensic evidence. This bill would be a solid step providing oversight, protecting people who may be innocent from bad science and helping taxpayers who are on the hook when prosecutions go badly. 

In January 2018, the Mackinac Center hosted an Issues & Ideas Forum on the topic of forensic evidence. Speakers from the Innocence Project and the Reason Foundation explained how best practices in the use of physical and biological evidence are continually evolving, and it’s almost never as clear-cut as depicted in movies and television. While only a fraction of criminal cases hinge on forensic evidence, an unacceptably high number of those cases get it wrong, either through human error, misleading testimony, an invalid or unreliable scientific method, or misconduct. There have been 17 exonerations in Michigan and 353 nationwide; in these cases, someone had been convicted on the basis of bad forensic evidence, the speakers added.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

A third speaker told a more personal story. Julie Baumer spent four years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of shaking her baby nephew, who actually had an obscure medical condition. Had there been a forensic science commission to review the evidence in her case, she said, she would not have been convicted. And, while she is entitled to some compensation from the state, Julie explained that no amount of money could return those lost years of her life, nor ease the burden of having to rebuild her emotional health and relationships after such a blow. She had been planning to adopt her nephew, but after she lost her freedom, he was adopted by another family and she never saw him again.

Stories like Julie’s demonstrate why it is critical to ensure that we hold our government accountable. It’s necessary and proper for the government to enforce laws and dispense justice, but the power to do so also poses great risk to our individual life, liberty and property rights. We need only look to the infamous Detroit Crime Lab to understand that it is not enough to delegate powers and responsibilities to the government without also requiring it to wield them effectively and fulfill them reliably.

In 2008, an audit of the Detroit Crime Lab revealed a backlog of over 11,000 untested rape kits. When tested, the kits identified 817 rapists, many of them serial rapists, who had gone undetected. While it cost the state more than $13 million to process the kits, the ultimate harm done to victims, families and communities by the delay is unquantifiable.

Here again, an oversight body might have averted the opportunity for hundreds of violent criminals to escape prosecution. The problems at the DCL were chalked up to a lack of resources – something that a commission could have identified and resolved before it became a crisis.

The commission contemplated by the legislation would be made up of scientists, crime lab techs, attorneys, and judges. It would study crime labs in the state, review the evolution in forensic science, and issue public reports that make recommendations for changes in policy or scientific methods. It would have the ability to investigate complaints or concerns with lab activity and help increase efficiency and prevent backlogs. Seventeen other states and the District of Columbia maintain such commissions, which are recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

The push to implement this commission has been met with concerns that it would create a bureaucratic expansion that would create inefficiencies at labs, and that it is unnecessary in any case since crime labs are accredited by national accrediting bodies. But the commission would not interfere in the daily operations of the labs. It would, furthermore, not be able to issue rules, but only reports and recommendations to the lab, lawmakers or the relevant government agency. When Houston, Texas, introduced a similar commission, it reduced costs by 40 percent, backlogs by 66 percent and total turnaround time by 76 percent.

It’s also worth remembering that a one-time receipt of accreditation doesn’t guarantee day-to-day compliance. Accreditation simply means that a lab promises to implement practices approved by national accrediting bodies – but those bodies only check up on the labs every couple of years. The Detroit Crime Lab had been accredited; it simply did not comply with the required standards. Other Michigan labs have been reaccredited despite demonstrated deficiencies in their practices. Some have had to request multiple extensions of old accreditations because they had trouble bringing their standards up to meet new requirements, and nearly lost their accreditation entirely.

Most citizens take it on faith that the criminal justice system is staffed by impartial experts relying on sound evidence and testimony. But when that system fails to identify violent criminals and strips innocent people of their life, liberty and property, when it has in fact become a notorious example of what not to do, our representatives and officials shouldn’t double down on rhetoric about trusting the experts and the process. They ought to accept help selecting best practices and keeping up with changes in science. They ought to respect citizens’ rights to know how evidence against them or against those who harmed them is being processed and presented in court. They ought to welcome additional support with resource allocation and quality control. When it comes to those who are sworn to protect and to serve, the only appropriate response to such a proposal is, “If this will help us serve and protect you better, we will do it.”


Related Articles:

Bad Forensic Evidence Sends Innocents To Prison

Coping with the Growing Number of Felons in Michigan

Red or Blue, Criminal Justice Still Gets a Green Light

Neither Inmates Nor Counties Get Out of Jail Free

Legally Innocent, Yet Behind Bars

A Look at What Happens After Minimum Wage Hikes in Michigan

Job growth drives low-income wage increases more than legal minimums

After supporters of hiking the minimum wage collected enough signatures to put their issue before voters, state legislators approved the increase. It is generally illegal to pay workers less than $9.25 per hour right now, and this threshold will be raised to $12 per hour over the next four years and adjusted for inflation annually after that.

When inflation is factored in, this would not be the highest minimum wage the state has ever imposed. That would have been in 1968, when it was 6 percent higher.

Supporters of the increase want to help people earning low wages and think minimum wage increases will do the trick. If that is the case, an increase means that more people will be earning the new (and higher) minimum wage. Say that the wage goes up from $8.15 an hour to $10 per hour. The people who had been earning $10 an hour will still be earning the minimum wage, so they are added to the number of workers with a minimum-wage job. Workers who had been earning $8.15 per hour, meanwhile, will now enjoy a higher income.

But past experience in Michigan shows that things don’t pan out that way. Between 1995 and 1997, the national minimum wage increased from $4.25 per hour to $5.15 per hour. Under the theory espoused by advocates of increasing the wage, the share of workers at or (when exceptions are allowed) below the minimum wage should have gone up. But it did not. Instead, it fell from 7.3 percent of the workforce in 1994 to 6.5 percent in 1997. The decline continued throughout the decade that followed, and by 2007, only 2.17 percent of the workforce was at or below the minimum wage.

If raising the minimum wage does not have a large effect on the share of people with low-wage jobs, what does? One thing is the number of jobs that are gained and lost in the economy. The share of people working at or below the minimum wage goes up when the state economy loses jobs, and fewer people work for low pay when the state adds jobs.

In fact, whether the economy grows or declines has a greater effect on the number of minimum-wage jobs than increases in the wage itself. Job growth helps low-income earners get higher wages, and a recession puts a higher proportion of employees at or below the minimum wage.

Large and sudden increases in the minimum wage have the potential to shock the economy and have ripple effects that hurt both low-wage workers and everyone else. Michigan’s increases, however, have been relatively small and gradual, so their effects have not been severe. The increases have done little to get more people working at minimum-wage jobs.

The incoming minimum wage hike is unlikely to wreck the economy, but it is probably going to cause some minor harms to it. The decline in minimum-wage jobs after minimum wage hikes indicates that supporters do not get what they want out of the policy. The additional wage mandates more likely result in the elimination of some minimum-wage jobs. Given that the workforce earning that wage is small, the harms will also be small.

While minimum wage laws may have little effect on larger economic trends, they matter a great deal to people who work at the low end of the wage scale. When previous wage arrangements become illegal, business managers have to ask whether they will eliminate jobs or raise wages. Under a new wage law, both job losses and wage hikes will happen, which is bad for the people who lose their jobs and good for those who get higher wages.

Whether the wage increases are more important than the job losses is a debatable point. But that’s small potatoes. Increases in the minimum wage do little to improve the economy overall. And that is what matters most for low-income workers.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!


Related Articles:

Unlawful In Michigan To Work For Less Than $9.25/Hour

Minimum Wage, Fantasy Sports, Donor Privacy, 5G and More

Michigan Chamber of Commerce: Union-Backed Ballot Proposals Will Harm Business

Some 'Tipped' Restaurant Workers Say Don't Raise Our Minimum Wage

Michigan Democrats Slam Changes To Minimum Wage Law — While Paying Their Interns Nothing

What You May Expect To See In Lame Duck

This week's MichiganVotes focuses on bills that may arise during lame duck session

This edition of the Roll Call Report highlights bills related to issues that may arise in the coming lame duck legislative session.

Senate Bill 1171: Undo repeal of lower minimum wage for “tipped” workers
Introduced by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R), to delete the provision of a 2018 initiated law that repealed a lower minimum wage imposed of tipped workers, which had been 38 percent of the minimum wage for other workers. (Under that law, a tipped-worker’s employer still had to pay the difference between the lower tipped wage amount and the regular minimum wage if tips come up short.) The initiated law was enacted by the legislature in September of 2018 and is now Public Act 337 of 2018. The bill does not affect the initiative’s minimum wage hike for non-tipped workers.

Senate Bill 1175: Remove employer guilt presumption from employee leave mandate
Introduced by Sen. Mike Shirkey (R), to remove an employer liability provision of the 2018 initiated law that imposed a mandate on employers to grant employees one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a total of 40 hours annually for small businesses, and 72 hours annually for larger employers. The targeted provisions impose extensive record keeping requirements on employers, and potentially create a legal presumption that missing records means an employer has violated the law. The initiated law was enacted by the legislature in September of 2018 and is now Public Act 338 of 2018. The bill does not affect the actual sick leave mandate the initiative imposed on employers.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!


Senate Bill 1197: Authorize Straits of Mackinac pipeline and utility tunnel
Introduced by Sen. Tom Casperson (R), to give the Mackinac Bridge Authority the authority to install a utility tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. This would contain a controversial oil pipeline, power lines and other utility infrastructure. The bill authorizes the Authority to borrow and levy user fees to build and operate the tunnel.

Senate Bill 787: Authorize lower-cost auto insurance for seniors
To exempt a person age 65 or above from having to buy the unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) coverage mandated by the state’s no fault auto insurance law. Specifically, these individuals could buy either unlimited injury coverage or a policy that caps medical coverage at $50,000, with injury expenses above that amount covered by the individual's Medicare and related coverage.

Senate Bill 1014: Cap auto insurance crash victim family-care charges
Introduced by Sen. Joe Hune (R), to restrict the amount that can be charged for long term “attendant care” provided by family members to crash victims under the state's no fault insurance law’s mandatory unlimited medical coverage.

House Bill 5526: Assign letter-grade to each public school
Introduced by Rep. Tim Kelly (R), to create a state commission to develop a system that assigns each public school a letter grade between A and F based on its achievement in six specified indicators: math and English proficiency; math and English progress; progress of non-English speakers at learning the language; graduation rate; absentee rate; and the rate of participation on statewide tests.

Senate Bill 983: Require schools have response plans for many threats
Introduced by Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R), to require public schools and local police to develop emergency response plans for a broad range of specific risks including school violence and attacks. Also, schools would be required to have plans to improve school building security, plans to train teachers on mental health, and an active shooter protocol.

House Bill 6420: Permit and regulate fantasy sports games
Introduced by Rep. Brandt Iden (R), to establish a permissive licensure and regulatory regime on fantasy sports games and contests that offer money prizes, with games subject to specified restrictions and requirements, and an initial license fee of up to $5,000 for would-be vendors. Game outcomes would have to be the result of player skill and knowledge and not just chance, with prize amounts specified in advance. Individuals who run small scale fantasy sport games from their home would be exempt from licensure.
 
 

Related Articles:

Fireworks, Campaigns, Coal Ash, Wages and More

Some 'Tipped' Restaurant Workers Say Don't Raise Our Minimum Wage

Paid Leave, Parole and Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage, Fantasy Sports, Donor Privacy, 5G and More

A Look at What Happens After Minimum Wage Hikes in Michigan

Amazon and Foxconn Ignite Opposition To Business Subsidies

Expensive jobs announcements don’t foster economic growth

Business subsidies took a punch after people decried taxpayer support for Amazon’s second headquarters and Foxconn announced that it was scaling back its Wisconsin plant. Both projects were hyped by local politicians, who thumped their chests about bringing jobs to their state.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’d change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” if it were needed to land the project. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said that Foxconn would bring “the future of manufacturing to the U.S., and Wisconsin will be the leader,” and dubbed the region the company would be coming to the “Wisconn Valley.”

At their core, these projects are about using taxpayer money to get news and hype a region’s economic prospects. They get a ton of attention. The winners talk about how important it is to win. The companies say nice things about the winners. Politicians claim that these are landmark deals that will transform the economy and change the narrative for the states and cities that land the white whale. But that’s not how economies get developed.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

Michigan already has a handful of programs designed to subsidize footloose businesses. Lawmakers used them in their bids for both projects. But they’re just not large enough to make a dent in economic trends, especially when the massive job churn that’s part of a normal economy is considered. In the first three months of 2018, Michigan lost 172,700 jobs. It also added 215,000 jobs. Over the same period, state officials gave out awards to 16 companies that pledged to create 1,120 jobs. If we had to rely on politicians to replace the jobs lost in the economic churn, less than 1 percent of them would be replaced.

Even that number overstates the power of politicians to bring about significant economic changes. The companies that get these deals rarely live up to expectations. In one of the old state programs, only 2.3 percent of companies created the number of jobs that were announced. And even when the jobs numbers pan out, the taxpayer expense that it takes to land the projects — some of which would have occurred without taxpayer support — puts in doubt the economic gains. Consequently, the state usually comes out behind.

So it’s good that people around the country have become skeptical about these deals.

As Alan Peters and Peter Fisher concluded in their 2004 review of the academic literature on these economic development programs,

The most fundamental problem is that many public officials appear to believe that they can influence the course of their state and local economies through incentives and subsidies to a degree far beyond anything supported by even the most optimistic evidence. We need to begin by lowering [policymakers'] expectations about their ability to micromanage economic growth and making the case for a more sensible view of the role of government — providing the foundations for growth through sound fiscal practices, quality public infrastructure, and good education systems — and then letting the economy take care of itself.

Instead of creating new programs to subsidize companies, public officials should develop a healthy reluctance to give taxpayer money to the next business that comes around looking for a handout.


Related Articles:

Amazon and Foxconn Ignite Opposition To Business Subsidies

Give Foxconn Nothing

More Insights from Mackinac Center’s Corporate Welfare Scorecard

Return of the Mega Subsidy

Why did the Governor Flip Flop on Corporate Welfare?

School Districts Exaggerate the Harms of Losing Students to Choice

Freedom, flexibility needed more than extra funds

Both the hard data and the opinions of parents highlight the benefits for Michigan students who exercise educational choice. But critics often say that when families leave a district, the result, especially in urban districts serving a predominantly minority population, is financial harm that adversely affects others. That harm, they say, is a reason to rein in choice and change how schools are funded. A closer look at the numbers, however, strongly suggests that the fears about the fiscal impacts of choice are overblown.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

In 2016 a Michigan State University professor released research arguing that school choice policies make the effects of declining enrollment worse, creating a "fierce downward spiral" for urban districts with low-income populations. But the claim of financial stress missed the trend of fewer districts falling under the state's watch list due to poor financial health.

Despite the good news about districts’ finances, some local education leaders have declared their grievances against school choice. In May, several superintendents complained to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. Their argument: The departure of many students for other options was depriving them of a fair share of resources to help those who have been left behind. One official reportedly suggested letting districts keep $2,000 for each local student who transfers away.

The commission meets again in Detroit on Nov. 19 to continue the public conversation on discrimination in K-12 schools. Some school district insiders remain clearly bent on painting public charter schools and inter-district choice programs as culprits. But they, along with policymakers, would be wise to consider the best research that shows the academic benefits of attending Michigan charter schools. They should also listen to the overwhelmingly positive opinions of the parents whose children have taken advantage of educational opportunities outside their assigned district. Some families want and need an alternative, and they can't afford to relocate.

Yet what about the students who are left behind? MLive recently ranked Michigan school districts by the percentage of public school students who live in the district but are enrolled elsewhere. If critics are correct, the districts where residents prefer choice —that is, where majorities or near-majorities of students enroll in other public schools — are those most likely to suffer.

Not surprisingly, 14 of MLive's 15 districts with the largest net enrollment losses have seen an increasing number of local residents exercising choice over the past eight years during which the state has tracked this data. (The only exception, the Detroit Public Schools Community District, has actually seen a slight drop in the number of departing students. All of its lost enrollment appears to be attributed to people moving out of the city.) In total, the number of students leaving these districts for another district or a charter school increased 59 percent between 2010 and 2018.

It may be difficult for districts to adapt to smaller budgets in the short term, but having fewer students generally means having fewer expenses. On a per-pupil basis, these districts' total revenues have grown slightly more than inflation while their operational spending has declined slightly. Detroit, where the last eight year's enrollment losses are the result of people moving away, hasn't fared any better.

But consider this: In 2010 the 14 districts spent over 20 percent more than what their share of student enrollment would suggest. They served 2.7 percent of Michigan's K-12 public school students, but spent about 3.3 percent of Michigan's K-12 public dollars. Seven years later, these districts still spend nearly 14 percent above the state average.

The disparity is explained in part by the fact these districts serve more students from low-income families, and thus are entitled to more federal funds. (While federal funding has fallen a bit in inflation-adjusted terms, local and state per-pupil dollars for these districts have grown in recent years.)

But compare their spending based on how many students they serve to that of the state's charter schools, which also have a highly disadvantaged student population:

As was the case with the 14 choice-intense districts, per-pupil spending in Michigan's charter schools changed very little from 2010 to 2017. But unlike those districts, charters have consistently spent between 18 and 22 percent less than their share of enrollment. Charter schools have no access to local property taxes and tend to get fewer federal dollars. Yet that has not hindered families, who flock to them for results and opportunities.

Perhaps officials should help districts find more freedom and flexibility to compete, rather than try to make it harder for families to find greener pastures.


Related Articles:

Michigan Parents and Voters Strongly Support School Choice

Most Michigan Parents Satisfied with School Choice

Report Ranks Schools By Lowest Resident Enrollment, Minus Key Fact

School Districts Exaggerate the Harms of Losing Students to Choice

Detroit Charters Send More Graduates to College Than Peers Do

Red or Blue, Criminal Justice Still Gets a Green Light

Election outcomes matter less when the issue enjoys substantial bipartisan support

The surprise outcome of the last presidential election threw considerable uncertainty upon yesterday’s midterm elections. But, both in Michigan and across the nation, state criminal justice reform advocates remain confident that next year will bring progress regardless of the party in power.

Although the principles of sound criminal justice policy – respect public safety, due process, individual liberty and smart public spending – appeal to both sides of the political spectrum, this issue has historically been one carried by Democrats and liberals. But its adoption by Republicans and advocates for limited government means that it is also more durable than issues favored by only one side of the political spectrum. That’s great news for Michigan.

Our state has had a fair share of success reforming criminal justice already. In 2014, then-Rep. Joe Haveman introduced a legislative proposal that lead to a wide-ranging, bipartisan package of 17 bills aimed at reducing recidivism by 2017. Meanwhile, the Michigan Department of Corrections garnered national attention for its innovative Vocational Villages. These in-prison vocational training academies help former offenders develop skills so that they have a better chance of landing steady employment after serving their sentences. And Michigan trial courts are running approximately 180 “problem-solving courts,” which help offenders get to the root of their criminal behavior and specialize in issues like mental health, alcoholism and drug addiction.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

But there is still a long list of problems requiring smart reform, so the new Legislature will have much to accomplish. In Michigan, that list includes giving our state’s 17-year-olds access to the juvenile justice system, modifying cash bail, and shifting more state and local resources to trial courts so that court funding no longer relies on getting convictions and collecting from often-indigent defendants.

Now, more than ever, we need an issue that everyone can work on together. The administration of criminal justice is a core function of government, and its outcomes affects all of us. In an age of broken discourse and political dysfunction, the promise of criminal justice reform is safer streets, more efficient spending and more effective administration of justice.


Related Articles:

Red or Blue, Criminal Justice Still Gets a Green Light

Democratic Attorney General Candidates Favor Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Mackinac Center Applauds Gov. Snyder’s ‘Outside the Box’ Reforms

Mackinac Center’s Forfeiture Expertise Cited

Involuntary Mental Health Treatment, Government Job Training, Aliens, Wine Tasting

The Good News And Bad News For UAW Members

Their money is being mismanaged but you don’t have to contribute

United Auto Worker officials have been accused of using dues money to personally enrich themselves with condos, vacations, conferences and personal luxuries. A UAW account has also been funding the building of a retirement home for recent president Dennis Williams.

According to The Detroit News, the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home is being built on Black Lake, the UAW’s 1,000 acre retreat center in northern Michigan. Initially, the union tried to use union labor for the whole project, but ended up hiring nonunion firms because of the high price (the two union bids were $1.3 million and $851,000).

So there is good news and bad news for UAW members. The bad news is that union management is misusing their dues to build a pricey vacation home for the outgoing president. The good news is that they are using nonunion, non-prevailing wage labor to save money.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

The other good news is that Michigan is a right-to-work state. No worker can be forced to pay union dues and fees in order to have a job. If workers don’t want to support this hypocrisy and alleged corruption, they can visit www.UAWOptOut.com.


Related Articles:

Public Safety Workers in Michigan Now Enjoy Right-to-Work

A Look at Unions in Michigan, Five Years After Right-to-Work

National Labor Expert: Right-To-Work Just the Beginning for Missouri

Unions Admit Forcing People to Pay Dues is Political

Teacher Sues Union Over Right-to-Work

Just A Reminder Of The Growing State Budget

Tax cuts cost much less than recent budget increases

Whichever candidate wins the governorship will preside over a growing state budget. Michigan’s budget has grown by $10.8 billion over the past eight years, a 9 percent gain when adjusted for inflation. State revenue — not including federal transfers or the small amounts of local and private dollars in the state budget — increased $6.8 billion, an 11 percent boost when adjusted for inflation.

There are 545,500 more jobs in Michigan than there were in 2010. Inflation-adjusted personal income is up by 19 percent. The growing economy means more money coming into Lansing.

An expanding state budget makes policy priorities more affordable. State estimators project that revenue to the state’s two largest funds will increase $1.7 billion over the next three years.

So it’s odd when tax cuts are treated as unaffordable to the state budget while spending is not. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette’s call to lower the income tax rate prompted one reporter to observe, “Schuette has not identified how he’d fill that shortfall; $1 billion represents roughly 10 percent of the state’s general fund revenues.”

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

On the other hand, spending advocates have not explained how they have paid for the $10.8 billion increase in state revenues.

They don’t have to. Every year, policymakers set budgets, in which they negotiate over scarce resources. If tax cuts are a priority, then it’s no different from the hundreds of other compromises that go into a budget. The budget dictates who gets the gains from economic growth, and lawmakers have concluded that there are better uses for taxpayer dollars in the state government.

With the expanding economy and the growth of the state budget, however, the next governor can afford to let residents keep more of what they earn.


Related Articles:

What I Would Like To See From Campaigns This Year

Some Budget Ideas for 2017

Congressional Science Spending Largely Untouched

Snyder Calls Legislature's Penalty For No Merit Pay 'Unenforceable'

Last Call: Reviewing Pre-election Votes Of The 2017-2018 Legislature

With the Legislature holding intermittent sessions during the general election campaign season, the Roll Call Report completes its review of key votes from the 2017-2018 session.

Senate Bill 897, Impose work requirement on able-bodied Medicaid recipients: Passed 26 to 11 in the Senate on April 19, 2018

To require state welfare officials to seek federal permission to allow requiring able-bodied individuals enrolled in the the federal health care law's Medicaid expansion to work at least 80 hours a month for at least nine months a year, or be in school, job-training or volunteer work. The bill authorizes exceptions for a parent with children under age six, individuals getting disability benefits or above age 62, a disabled person's caretaker and more.


House Bill 4999, Ban local food and beverage taxes: Passed 101 to 7 in the House on October 5, 2017

To prohibit local governments and authorities from imposing a tax or fee on the manufacture, distribution, wholesaling or retail sale of food for immediate consumption or non-immediate consumption. Among other things this would prohibit local officials from imposing soda taxes.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!


House Bill 4716, Remove parental rights for female genital mutilation: Passed 89 to 16 in the House on September 14, 2017

To take away the parental rights of a parent who subjects a child to female genital mutilation. This would be in the same section of law that terminates parental rights for severe child abuse and molestation.


House Bill 4557, Authorize prison for bringing 26 cases of beer or wine into state: Passed 99 to 8 in the House on May 25, 2017

To authorize up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine for bringing more than around 26 cases of wine or beer into the state without all the required licenses mandated by the state. Smaller quantities would be subject to 93 days in jail.


Senate Bill 652, Create environmental rules review committee: Passed 57 to 51 in the House on May 22, 2018

To create a state environmental rules review committee comprised of certain officials and representatives of specified interests including business, government and environmentalist groups, with the duty to make judgments on whether Department of Environmental Quality rulemaking plans meet reasonableness and other standards. Final decisions would belong to the governor, however.


Senate Bill 574, Let charter schools get some ISD enhancement millage money: Passed 23 to 14 in the Senate on October 18, 2017

To require revenue extracted by future regional enhancement property taxes that are levied by Intermediate School Districts and distributed to conventional public school districts to also be shared with public charter schools within the ISD's territory.


House Bill 5040, “Bad driver tax” repeal and amnesty: Passed 103 to 5 in the House on November 2, 2017

To repeal the very costly “driver responsibility fees” (“bad driver tax”) assessed for various traffic violations, and clear any outstanding liability on individuals subject to them. These levies were imposed in 2003 to avoid state spending cuts by increasing revenue collections.


Related Articles:

Budgets, Beer Tents, Vehicle Bike Racks and More

Big Budget Bills, Jail for Bringing in too much Beer, Ban Government Charter School Discrimination, more

Business Subsidies, Online Voter Registration, Licensure Reform and More

Favors for Aircraft Owners, Liquor Cartel and Salt Company; Canines in Cafés, More

Political Free Speech, Cocaine Sentencing, Add Details to Liquor Control Law