In the height of summer comes news of the death of a former Michigander who helped refine winter and the Winter Olympics, introducing a sport and a cultural phenomenon that brings joy (and sometimes frustration!) to millions.

Sherman Poppen died on July 31 at the age of 89, but for most people, his life was defined by something he did on Christmas Day, 1965. Poppen was at his Muskegon home, looking for a way to entertain his young daughters. He fashioned some old skis into a new device for sliding down the snow while standing up. He eventually called it a Snurfer, and Brunswick, the company best known for making bowling pins, sold many of them. My mother worked at Brunswick, so I had two different models, and I kept falling off each one.

The governor ran on a promise to fix the roads and to fix them with more money. It turns out that the “more money” part of her pitch mattered more than fixing roads. This preference was part of her campaign even if it wasn’t her main talking point; residents can now hear the dissonance between the two goals in the current road funding debate.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on July 12, 2019.

When a major electric utility plans to fundamentally restructure its generation system, ratepayers would do well to compare the plan with similar ones implemented by utilities in nearby jurisdictions. If the other attempts led to widespread economic damage and higher electricity rates, the new proposal should be soundly rejected.

On July 8, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined to announce a campaign focused on removing stigmas about skilled trades jobs and highlighting career options that do not involve enrolling in college. This program represents the latest effort in Whitmer’s mission to close the so-called skills gap in Michigan, which has included a plan to increase per-pupil funding for K-12 career and technical education from $50 to $487 per student. While well-intentioned, these initiatives may simply increase enrollment and spending for programs that have not proven themselves effective. To truly solve the problems the governor seeks to tackle, a more serious reform of career and technical education is needed.

The idea of increasing tax rates — including, most recently, imposing a graduated income tax — gets treated seriously by journalists and editors in the state. Proposals to cut taxes, by contrast, often get belittled, and proponents are treated like they have pathological disorders. That portrayal is not coming from the advocates for a larger government; it is coming from our news outlets.

In attempting to find more resources for road repairs, lawmakers seem to have painted themselves into a corner. They want a lot of money and they want it now, but they can’t raise taxes or cut the budget. A number of proposals have been made to increase taxes, and we’ve promoted some ways to save money. But lawmakers can also wait.

Michigan fire departments are mostly staffed by professional, paid firefighters. About one in four is a full-timer and one in seven is a volunteer; the remainder are part-timers. Departments that employ mostly full-time staffers cost local taxpayers millions more than volunteer stations, but they don’t have much to show for it.

There is ongoing debate in Michigan about how to fund state legislative priorities, such as road funding. The Mackinac Center has weighed in repeatedly with recommendations on how to increase road funding while avoiding a large net tax increase.

In 2011, Michigan lawmakers passed a bill that required public school employees to contribute more to the cost of their health insurance coverage, with most having to pay 20% of their premiums. At the time, the typical teacher paid only 4%, while the average private sector worker paid 22-27%. The move has saved school districts hundreds of millions of dollars, which can be used to help students learn more.

Midway through the summer months, the future of Benton Harbor schools seems as cloudy as ever. One potential solution for students in the troubled southwest Michigan district may come from not far down the road in Gary, Indiana, where an innovative and seemingly effective model has emerged.

Claims about clean energy jobs tend to be misleading for a number of reasons, but the most damning is that, when it comes to electricity generation, these jobs actually get very little work done relative to their fossil fuel counterparts. The higher the clean job numbers climb, the more dismal our energy production outlook becomes. More simply, clean energy jobs do not produce all that much per worker, so it takes an enormous number of people to produce even moderate amounts of electricity through them.

Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared in The Hill on July 6, 2019. 

In the United States, we legally consider 18-year-olds to be adults. You can’t drink alcohol, but you can smoke, own property and enlist in the military. Decades ago, you could be conscripted for the armed services, and few would blink an eye over two 18-year-olds getting hitched.

CQ Magazine, which is not an entity you can even find online anymore, just released a piece on charter schools and Betsy DeVos. There is a lot throughout the piece that is problematic: factual inaccuracies, inappropriate framing, a lack of good faith assumptions and more.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on July 13, 2019.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has emphasized the need for “better skills, better jobs.”

When lawmakers approved a bill to require local governments to report to the state on their retirement systems, we warned that some local officials will abuse this process to hike taxes. The Charter Township of Bloomfield in Oakland County looks like it’s in the process of proving the point.

Parents considering different high school options might look at a host of criteria to determine how well the school will help their teenager succeed. Graduation rates, standardized test scores and college enrollment rates all might make the list.

Federal legislation has been introduced that would mandate a rise in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. I have often wondered — and in writing — if supporters of such mandates understand simple economic concepts or if they have familiarized themselves with scholarly research on the minimum wage.

It was an honor to be invited to attend President Trump’s July 8 remarks at the White House on environmental progress. I was able to join a group of similarly focused policy experts who deal with energy and environmental issues all across the nation. President Trump’s comments focused on how we can develop both a clean environment and a strong economy, and he highlighted recent policy changes that are making that idea a reality.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on June 29, 2019. 

Summer is here and with it comes the usual urge for adventure, which often means travel. It probably doesn’t surprise you that some state and local governments spend millions of taxpayer dollars to try to lure you and your money.

Despite claims by Michigan’s largest electric company that the Pine River wind facility is the most cost-effective wind project in the state, it does not compete with similar projects in other states.

On March 8, DTE Energy started producing electricity at the Pine River Wind Park in Gratiot and Isabella counties. This new industrial wind generation facility is billed by the utility and media as “DTE’s most cost-effective and cost-efficient wind project to date.” But this claim deserves a closer look.

It’s no secret that lawmaking is a complex process. And yet, no matter the topic policymakers consider, the government should always set out with the same intention: to serve the public and protect their rights. Michigan carries some laws on its books, however, that criminalize behavior that in no way threaten our rights or safety. Two of the many rules created by the Michigan Department of Agriculture, for example, call for criminal punishments. Described below are two rules created by the Michigan Department of Agriculture that carry criminal punishments for acts that don’t merit such a penalty.

Lawmakers do not need to find $1.9 billion or even $1.0 billion for the roads in a single year. Road repairs are long-term projects, and the state needs to gradually spend more to ensure that roads are put back together faster than they fall apart.

The Mackinac Center joined a coalition of 30 free market organizations urging President Trump to press on with his administration’s efforts to reform Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on June 20, 2019. 

The Supreme Court of the United States is expected to decide whether to hear Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case that reveals the harm a state constitutional amendment marked by religious bias can do to families.