In the most recent federal spending bill, Congress authorized $150 billion to be paid out to states and some local governments. Michigan’s share of this is estimated at $3.9 billion, which can do a lot to prevent the state from approving emergency tax hikes, debt issuance, or spending reductions. But Congress placed restrictions on the assistance, saying the money could be used only to increase state spending directly related to COVID-19 rather than to provide budget relief from the expected loss of revenue.

Eventually the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic will run its course, and how long that takes will matter to the fiscal challenges Michigan’s state government will face. For example, the personal income tax is Michigan state government’s largest revenue source. Right now, it’s unclear how much the pandemic will cause state income tax collections to decrease as people stay home and lose earned income.

This week we are continuing to highlight ways Michigan businesses and individuals are changing their day-to-day operations to help out during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses have reconfigured themselves to make personal protection equipment for health care workers, including gowns, face shields and masks. More distilleries are starting to produce hand sanitizer, while another company is designing copper products that can stop the spread of germs. You can check out the complete roundup below.

Last week Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged the Legislature not to meet to discuss an extension of the state of emergency declared because of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This would be a mistake, and the governor should continue to embrace close collaboration with the Legislature and should not sideline it in this emergency.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s April 2 executive order to close down public school buildings for the rest of the academic year has set in motion a new education norm. The move to use distance learning in no way represents a popular preference that would be pursued under normal circumstances. Among the foremost concerns are how to help students with disabilities. Widely available digital tools, used in a partnership between schools and parents, offer the most likely path forward.

Quarantine measures put in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus have evoked a joyous response from the more extreme elements of the Green movement as they see human influences on the natural environment diminished. Rather than promoting the well-being and safety of humans, people with these extreme views actually celebrate as they see human society being harmed. But common sense tells us that humans are a part of the natural environment and that taking pleasure in the reduction of human well-being is a self-destructive habit that we can (and should) all firmly and politely reject.

In a previous blog post about Michigan and the COVID-19 coronavirus, I argued that Michigan’s public policy front today is much stronger than it was in years past. The reader may recall that the Great Lake State was subject to an economic one-two punch during the 2000s. It lived through a decade of lost growth — basically enduring its own, single-state recession — while also being pummeled by the national Great Recession starting in December 2007.

We recently featured a number of Michigan businesses that are taking the initiative and making a difference during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Today, we’re taking a look at even more businesses that have stepped up to help. From distilleries and chemical companies making hand sanitizer to shoe factories and volunteers making masks, businesses and people across the state are finding unique ways to help.

Before the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Michigan, lawmakers had negotiated a spending bill loaded with costs for legislator hobby horses — spending on particular parks, particular museums, and lots of other one-off items legislators requested. After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an emergency for the pandemic and ordered people to stay at home, these projects seem even more inappropriate. Gov. Whitmer was right to use her line item veto authority to get rid of this unnecessary spending.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread, many people are looking to the government for help. While the state government has implemented some positive reforms, there are other ways we can help each other. Thankfully, several businesses and even entire industries are helping meet the needs of the public. It’s encouraging to see Michigan businesses go above and beyond their normal operations to help. Below is a compilation of stories featuring Michigan businesses and individuals who are taking initiative and making a difference.

Americans, at this time, are riveted on containment and conquest of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This constitutes a sensible priority and necessary transition before taking the offensive against an even larger threat. Yet increasing portions of our population are focusing also on the longer-term, far more virulent adversary: Can a nation running $26 trillion in accumulated debt, atop a total of $122 trillion in unfunded liabilities, survive?

In response to the coronavirus emergency the legislature has scheduled tentative one-day-a-week sessions but is unlikely to meet again before April 21. During this period the roll call report will share descriptions of some interesting or noteworthy recent bill introductions, beginning with ones related to the epidemic and emergency response. Recent weekly roll call reports have described unanimous votes to fund state virus-response activities, but there have been no hearings or votes on these new bills.

People are worried about how the COVID-19 coronavirus is going to affect their lives, both from the ongoing restrictions on what they can do, but also in the uncertainty it brings to their livelihoods. There are already a number of policy reforms that have been floated to address the pandemic. There are also policies in place that get ramped up without needing to wait for action from lawmakers. Payments from unemployment insurance, in particular, are already increasing as the pandemic shuts down workplaces, and that’s the way that it’s supposed to be.

A March 20 memo from the Michigan Department of Education declared that emergency online education would not count toward a school’s required number of instructional hours. The declaration added confusion and frustration to the state-ordered school building closures prompted by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, American higher education faced major challenges. Fewer students attended colleges in 2019 than in 2010. Public support for higher education had ebbed, a harm partly self-inflicted by high tuition levels, and increasingly by a campus environment alien to ordinary Americans, quite substantially different from life in the "real world." Although colleges derive much revenue from tuition fees, they also rely greatly on third parties — taxpayers and private donors — for support.

What does a company surrendering their First Amendment rights have to do with the health and economic safety of Americans? It doesn’t, yet the current version of the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” which is floating around Washington, seems to require it.

It is not hard to look back and believe that the Great Lakes State is in a better, more resilient position today to weather an economic storm than at any time before.

We have today a more rational tax system and a more flexible labor climate than in recent years. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also recently made some temporary reforms changes we can’t help but applaud, and believe others may be offered up by the Legislature too.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi returned to Washington on Monday to release her own version of the third COVID-19 stimulus bill that had been hammered out in the Senate over the weekend. Claiming the Senate version didn’t focus on the American people and was too generous to large business, the Speaker’s bill of more than 1,100 pages stalled ongoing Congressional discussions with its $2.5 billion laundry list of handouts. Potential beneficiaries included labor unions, public broadcasters, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the U.S. Postal Service and many others.

The state’s economic development program administrators have a new report out on their work from October 2018 to September 2019. It is a useful report that tells people about what business subsidies the state has offered and some of what has happened as a result. But the reporting is blended with self promotion by administrators of these programs and demonstrates why the Legislature needs to demand more transparency.

The Michigan Department of Education today issued a memo declaring that efforts taken by public schools to provide remote instruction during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak will not be counted toward state-mandated instruction hours.

In an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has invoked emergency powers granted to her under Michigan law to prohibit individuals from gathering in large groups. She also called for closing schools, restaurants, theaters, coffee shops, gyms, casinos, libraries, museums and more. Some might wonder: Can she even do that? It’s a legitimate question to ask. After all, this appears to be an unprecedented use of executive power.

Having operated in Michigan for more than 25 years, public charter schools regularly have to overcome myths about how they function. That’s even truer of charters that provide classical education, a newer phenomenon that could soon reach more parts of the state.

The U.S. public has embraced a policy of temporary “social distancing” to “buy time” in response to the coronavirus epidemic, and on their own are energetically implementing it. Over the past weekend public officials across the nation began issuing orders and restrictions to implement the policy officially.