It is a travesty that state officials refuse to disclose to Michigan residents which companies are collecting how much of literally billions of state tax dollars in business subsidy payments. The state makes available a treasure trove of information on most of its spending, but mum’s the word when it comes to providing transparency on this “economic development” money.

Michigan lawmakers are in the midst of putting together the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. There is a push to put more money into roads and infrastructure. But one easy place to cut and shift the funding is the Michigan Business Development Program.

House Bill 5094, Ban credit bureaus charging for security freeze: Passed 35 to 1 in the Senate

The Michigan Senate came together on a bill that raises costs for all citizens to benefit one select company.

That’s not exactly how most politicians would describe it, but that is the actual effect of Senate Bill 363. The proposed law requires the state to pay higher prices (up to 8 percent) on salt it purchases from other countries versus what it would pay to purchase salt from a company located in Michigan. It is believed that the only Michigan-based company that would benefit from an artificially higher price is the Detroit Salt Company.

Gov. Rick Snyder has pitted a generous increase in overall student funding against cuts to certain kinds of educational services some families prefer. But it doesn't have to be an either-or proposition; there are other options that could be put on the table.

The largest source of revenue for local governments is property taxes. They raised $14.0 billion for the state, schools, community colleges and local governments in 2017, a 2.42 percent increase from the previous year. Property tax revenues are approaching their 2007 peak of $14.3 billion. But with inflation, they would still be 13 percent below these peak levels.

House Bill 4321, Authorize extra $160 million for road repairs: Passed 36 to 0 in the Senate

Senate Bill 798, Establish foster care alternative: Passed 37 to 0 in the Senate

To establish an alternative for court-ordered foster care that would allow a parent or guardian to sign a “safe families” power of attorney form delegating to another person (potentially but not necessarily a family member) the care, custody or property of a minor child for up to 180 days with no intimation of “abandonment,” subject to rules prescribed by the bill including background checks, home inspections and more.

After spending months fighting to prevent the sale of an abandoned building to a charter school, Detroit’s superintendent supports the sale of another property to a prison.

The Detroit Free Press reported last week that Superintendent Nikolai Vitti recommended accepting the sole $200,000 offer for vacant Detroit Public Schools Community District property from a developer in conjunction with a new Wayne County Justice Center. However, Detroit's school board narrowly rejected an offer to sell after member LaMar Lemmons insisted that the community did not want a correctional facility in the area. Two other board members joined him to stop the sale.

As state budget discussions are underway, now may be a good time to revisit the state’s corporate welfare complex to search for scarce dollars that could be redirected to higher priorities. One area that could be examined involve subsidies that support the Michigan Business Development Program. This program takes money away from lots of people and business and gives it to a few in the hope it may create more jobs than might otherwise occur.

Last year Gov. Rick Snyder failed in his attempt to reduce funding for full-time online students. Rather than seek an equitable solution, the governor is now using his final budget proposal to double down on the attack and penalize certain parental choices.

Michigan is not a windy state, but you wouldn’t know it from the actions of state regulators. Michigan’s Legislature has favored the wind industry, mandating that an increased portion of energy produced in the state must come from wind. These mandates are typically advanced under the assumption that energy produced by wind will eventually become competitive on price. That seemed true for a while, but lately wind energy prices have been stuck in neutral or even started to increase in Michigan. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely prices will improve with protective federal tax provisions being phased out and with the best locations for wind farms already occupied.

House Bill 5040, "Driver responsibility fees” repeal and amnesty: Passed 36 to 0 in the Senate

In 2003, as Michigan was accelerating into what would later be dubbed an economic “lost decade” and tax collections were in decline, legislators were desperate to avoid hard decisions on necessary spending cuts. It was a time of accounting gimmicks and fund shifts, but as one pundit put it, “They’ve turned over all the couch cushions and there’s no more change left to find.”

While many interest groups representing law enforcement employees oppose reforming civil asset forfeiture to require a criminal conviction before the state can take ownership of a person’s property, some law enforcement officers support the changes.

Job growth in the economic recovery following the Great Recession has been fairly steady. If the trend continues — and there’s no way of determining if it will or won’t — Michigan will surpass its 2000 job level peaks in 2020. There’s a symmetry to that. (The future is uncertain, of course, so take this with a grain of salt.)

Skyscrapers for large corporations and new arenas for wealthy owners of pro sports teams? The Detroit City Council has you covered. But if you want to live, work, visit or send your kids to school in the city, your endeavor is very difficult.

House Bill 4705, Teach proper traffic stop actions in drivers ed: Passed 109 to 0 in the House

To require drivers education courses to teach what to do when pulled over by a law enforcement officer.

A law that takes effect next month adds a handful of new crimes to the list of offenses for which violators must reimburse the state or a local unit of government for expenses incurred responding to and prosecuting the crime. Such crimes as drunk driving and violating a restraining order have carried this requirement and now retail fraud, dealing in stolen goods and failure to appear in court will, too.

Illinois has promised $129 billion more to government workers than it has saved for their pensions. That’s over $10,000 for every man, woman and child in the Land of Lincoln. So the state has cooked up a scheme to pay down these costs.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page summarizes it this way:

House Bill 4787, Revise personal data details on ice shanties: Passed 38 to 0 in the Senate

To revise the requirement that ice fishing shanties must have the owner’s name and address affixed to each side, by allowing either the owner's drivers license number or fishing license number instead. Also, to allow the Department of Natural Resources to determine the date each year when shanties must be removed from the ice based on actual weather and ice conditions. Current law sets fixed removal dates.

It’s Groundhog Day and Traverse City is closely imitating the plot of the movie of the same name by moving forward with a plan for a government-owned and -operated internet service provider. This despite the fact that similar attempts have failed time after time in other cities across the country.

Under Michigan law, people with a criminal record are severely limited or banned from working in health care professions. But a package of bills recently taken up in the state House would help more ex-offenders rehabilitate themselves back into society by finding legal work.

Editor’s note: This article has been revised since its original publication to reflect the budget proposal put forth by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Twice this month, the drum has sounded for more dollars to fund Michigan’s public schools. As of now, we don’t know where the extra funds would come from, but there’s every reason to doubt more money will have any significant impact on student achievement.

State lawmakers created new business subsidy programs last year. This new taxpayer spending will have little effect on the state economy and will not likely justify its costs. This is because politicians cannot keep up with the massive dynamic job loss and job creation that occurs outside of Lansing’s watch.