For decades, Michigan lawmakers have voted in a bipartisan manner to give taxpayer dollars to select corporations. The nature and scope of these programs have changed, but one consistent theme remains: they rarely create the jobs politicians promise they will.

The Michigan Municipal League regularly makes the case that the state government should transfer more money to municipal governments. But MML Communications Director Matt Bach overstated one point when he said, “Across the country, Michigan ranks 50th — DEAD LAST — in investing in its communities since 2002.”

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on January 29, 2019.

Last June the Supreme Court overturned years of legal precedent and effectively granted states greater taxing powers over transactions that involve out-of-state retailers. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case, known as South Dakota v. Wayfair, makes it easier for Michigan’s Treasury to raise revenue — an estimated $200 million-plus per year, according to published estimates. Yet taking advantage of this “opportunity” means pulling more taxes from the wallets of Michigan taxpayers while imposing job-killing compliance burdens on small and medium-sized businesses that sell products online.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 18, 2019.

It’s said that the punishment ought to fit the crime, but that adage is coming undone now that having a criminal record has become a lifelong sentence for millions of Americans. One reason: Technology has made it easier than ever to access public records. As a result, individuals whose crimes were minor, are decades old, or both, nevertheless face a stigma that could harm their employment and education prospects until they die. This is bad for public safety and for the workforce, but a simple policy change could correct the problem.

Get used to it.

Last night, Gov. Whitmer and Consumers Energy used the state’s emergency warning system to request that Michigan residents curtail their use of natural gas. The warning paired with DTE’s request that its customers voluntarily reduce their electric use during this period of extreme cold. Winter cold has hit the nation with a vengeance, reminding us of the value of reliable, affordable fossil fuels, as well as the dangers of the green special interest demands that we jettison these fuels from our energy options.

The new year has ushered in fresh opportunities to solve the pressing issues of our times. Criminal justice reform is no exception, especially given the increased attention it has received lately from organizations across the political spectrum.

The Office of the Auditor General today released its audit on the state’s Michigan Business Development Program, a corporate subsidy initiative of the Snyder administration. The audit found that the program gave out money for what might be phantom jobs and overstated its economic impacts. The MBDP should be closed completely, and its resources redirected to some higher priority, such as road infrastructure.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 11, 2019. 

On Dec. 6, the EPA proposed revising a 2015 Obama administration regulation that effectively outlawed construction of coal-fired power plants in the United States. In its new form, the rule would help extract the federal government from its role of selecting winners and losers in electricity generation. But it will not, as some groups fear, guarantee that new coal plants will be built.

Last week, The Guardian, a United Kingdom-based news organization, published an article that cherry-picked language from a 2015 U.S. government report that referenced our cigarette smuggling research.

A new education funding report from Michigan State University made a splash in media outlets last week. Multiple headlines and stories declared the state in a freefall of dollars dedicated to Michigan's public schools. The real story is far less dramatic and devastating. In fact, Michigan ranks near the middle nationally in per-pupil funding.

Electric Vehicles are hip and happening. Media reports gush over auto manufacturer plans to transition their fleets to EV production in an alleged response to growing grassroots and public demand. When asked, hybrid and battery electric vehicle advocates and owners proudly state their love for their vehicles. But when you dig into the details, you find more to the story than just growing consumer demand.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 3, 2019.

In many places, education reform has migrated from the front pages to inside space. The momentum to create far-reaching initiatives has exhausted citizens and policymakers alike. But there’s still a need for a system that provides parents and educators with clear, useful signals of school quality.

At the end of 2018, Michigan lawmakers eliminated the state’s painter license, making Michigan join the majority of states that do not require painters to have a state license to work.

The license mandated classroom hours, passing an exam and spending hundreds of dollars. There is no evidence that this made people better painters or served to protect the public in a substantial way. Instead, it amounted to simply putting obstacles in the path of people trying to work. It also prevented virtually anyone with a criminal record from ever being licensed since it required licensees to possess “good moral character,” which, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. The repeal bill officially goes into effect on March 28, 2019.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is set to expire this year. The agency administers the state’s business subsidy programs and was created in 1999 by an agreement that expires after 20 years. The new Whitmer administration gets to decide what it wants to do with the functions the MEDC provides. Most likely the duties will be transferred to another arm of state government, but the state’s business subsidy regimen deserves to go away without replacement.

The state budget is about priorities. There are constant demands for more spending but a limited number of dollars collected by state taxes. When something is imperative, like a campaign promise to fix the roads, lawmakers have to determine what other areas of the state budget have lower priority.

After the tragic events of February 14, 2018, Broward County, Florida, became known nationwide by one word: Parkland. Home to the sixth-largest school district in the U.S., Broward became the focus of state and national attention after a school shooting took the lives of 17 students and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The Michigan Legislature has started its new session by considering bipartisan legislation that would help protect the civil liberties of Michiganders. Civil asset forfeiture occurs when the government takes and keeps the property of an individual it suspects of having committed a crime. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has done much work on this issue, including publishing a study on the practice of civil forfeiture. As a result, it has been cited by several media outlets since the legislation was introduced, including Michigan Radio, The Tri-County Times and The Detroit News.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on January 20, 2019. 

In education, “parent power” doesn’t just represent a slogan. Parent power provides a way to improve the educational system, by increasing accountability in every school and classroom. This National School Choice Week, we should celebrate the way in which educational choice has provided parents a powerful tool to partner with educators to change the lives of many Michigan children.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Hill on November 3, 2018.

Americans should pause to consider the value of policies that advance economic freedom. Greater voluntary and peaceful association, protection of property rights, and less burdensome taxes are three such policies that can improve the lives of all.

John Bogle, the founder and long-time leader of The Vanguard Group, passed away this week. His approach to financial investing was market-driven and saved people an untold amount of money.

Bogle entered the financial world right out of college, rose quickly and fell even faster when he was fired for what he called an “unwise merger.” This turned out for the good when he founded the Vanguard Company in 1974. He quickly developed the first index mutual fund available to the general public.

The Snyder administration’s final actions included the approval of new business subsidies. A last-minute spending bill allocated an extra $20 million to the Michigan Business Development Program and the Michigan Community Revitalization Program, both of which give grants or loans of state tax revenue to businesses. Lawmakers also approved a new rural speculation fund. And they authorized a further $300 million to the 21st Century Jobs Fund, which spends tax money on economic development.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on January 10, 2019.

Engaged and informed parents are a vital part of the effort to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for children. That's why Lansing lawmakers' adoption of a new school letter grading system should be embraced as a small but critical piece of turning around the languishing performance of Michigan schools.

Get Used to It