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The new 2021 state budget takes effect tomorrow. Spending increased noticeably since fiscal 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, but it was mixed in the area of corporate and industrial handouts. Funding for them was down from the previous year, but it should be cut to $0. Research repeatedly shows state jobs program subsidies to be an ineffective development tool.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on September 5, 2020. 

The Trump administration and congressional leaders are at loggerheads over another COVID-19 relief package that may effectively provide state and local governments with another bailout. Discussions suggest it would range from $200 billion to $1 trillion. Our view is that it should be zero. There are too many negative consequences associated with going more deeply into debt, particularly when there are superior solutions available.

Some Michigan citizens face significant mental health challenges, and it is likely only getting worse following the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last several decades, Michigan has transitioned individuals with mental illnesses out of state hospitals and into community-based inpatient facilities. While this makes treatment and the location of services more convenient for families, the total number of community-based inpatient psychiatric beds has fallen by nearly 30% for adults and over 60% for children over the same time. This shortage means that patients with mental illnesses may not receive care when they need it and require longer waits in emergency rooms or, in some cases, even jail cells.

Robert Gordon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services, recently argued before a legislative committee that Michigan’s experience with COVID-19 could have been much worse were it not for the actions of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. According to MIRS News (subscription required), Gordon used the death rates in Louisiana and Mississippi to argue that 4,600 or 2,600 more Michiganders would have died if Michigan had the death rates of those two states, respectively, implying the governor’s actions made the difference. This analysis is irresponsible and wrong.

Months after the response to the COVID-19 pandemic sent a shock through the economy and the education system, the Michigan Legislature approved Wednesday — with nearly unanimous support — record levels of state funding for schools. Lawmakers did not have to resort to federal coronavirus relief or the state’s rainy day fund to set next year’s budget, as they had to keep spending promises made the year before.

This morning, the Michigan House Government Operations Committee approved HB 6233. This bill, filed just eight days ago, would undercut a recent federal court settlement allowing electric vehicle manufacturers to sell directly to consumers in Michigan and instead shoehorn all (except Tesla) into Michigan’s archaic vehicle dealership regulatory structure. The bill could come to the House floor as early as this afternoon.

The unions representing Michigan’s civil service employees have sued the Michigan Civil Service Commission over its adoption of new rules requiring employees to annually opt in to dues deductions. They claim that this rule change violates the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution and interferes with the unions’ First Amendment rights. There are significant flaws in the unions’ arguments, however.

For decades, and especially in recent years, high-speed internet has been expanding rapidly. Consumers get much higher speeds for what they pay than they used to and networks are covering more areas. The vast majority of people are happy with their internet service.

Michigan’s laws governing the market for alcoholic beverages are largely designed to enrich a handful of people, in the name of public safety. That’s why the state needs to change its alcohol control policies, which ought to be about protecting the public against the intoxicant’s harms rather than allowing a select few to collect monopoly profits.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency executive orders lacked clarity from the start. They’ve required more than a thousand responses to frequently asked questions. Some confusion within the initial orders can be expected and is understandable. But the governor's latest orders, issued more than six months after she assumed control of the state’s response to COVID-19, are as confusing as the earliest ones.

Lawmakers are working on the fiscal year 2021 budget and they will be finished soon. To their credit, both legislators and the governor agreed to cut corporate welfare spending in the current fiscal year. For 2021, they should take another swipe and cut it down, preferably to zero. Research by scholars at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and at universities has repeatedly shown such programs to be ineffective, if not harmful. They certainly don’t qualify as fair.

In the fall of 2014, the car dealers lobby promoted a bill in the Michigan Legislature that passed and stopped Tesla from selling cars directly to consumers. Simply by eliminating the word “its” from Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Franchise Act, the law suddenly prohibited car companies from opening their own show rooms or service centers in Michigan.

When asked why they stay in a union, some teachers cite a fear of losing pay, benefits, or tenure.

But for teachers and other public employees who may want to opt out of the union at their workplace, dropping membership does not have any effect on seniority, tenure, or pay, or benefits such as health insurance or a retirement plan.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 22, 2020. 

Joe Biden's selection of Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate could mean the end to the affordable energy that makes modern American life possible.

Housing costs have boomed in various places throughout the nation, but not so much here in Michigan. In San Francisco, by contrast, rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now nearly $3,400 a month. That’s extreme, of course, but still more than double the average rent for a one-bedroom in Ann Arbor — Michigan’s most expensive city. The median rent statewide is just $681 a month.

Editor's Note: This article was first published in Crain's Detroit Business on August 30, 2020.

Each year, the state of Michigan's economic development programs had to offer hand-selected companies almost $594,000 for each job these programs created. That's one finding in a new study from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

In 2007, the Michigan Department of Community Health participated in a program run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the Social Distancing Law Project. The endeavor was to “assist selected states with assessing their legal preparedness to implement social distancing measures in … public health emergencies.” As a result, a group of legal experts, from the state health department and Michigan Department of Attorney General, produced a report that “provides an assessment of Michigan’s legal readiness to address pandemic influenza.”

This week, the Mackinac Center signed onto a letter to the Michigan House of Representatives, encouraging legislators to support a series of bills to implement two key recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Jails and Pre-Trial Incarceration. Other signatories included Americans for Prosperity-Michigan and Reps. Steve Johnson, Bronna Kahle, Beau LaFave, and Luke Meerman.

A recent story from Crain’s Detroit Business on the “arithmetic of inequality” in Michigan K-12 funding erred in boosting a broad solution based on a narrow comparison. Correcting its omission of key schools and funding sources highlights where the true disparities lie.

The number of jobs in Michigan that now require a state license has skyrocketed from around 5% in the 1950s to more than 20% today. The vast majority of these licenses restrict people with a criminal background from working legally, and they include roofers, cosmetologists, barbers, nurses, security guards and others in high-demand fields.

History is full of wonderful lessons that people can learn from to avoid condemning themselves to repeated failures. Take Michigan’s corporate welfare apparatus, for instance. Years of bad programs and poor choices have not prevented politicians from returning to ineffective economic development strategies.

The return to school has been anything but usual this year. Pandemic-related concerns have left some Michigan parents scrambling to find a suitable in-person or virtual learning option that their home district doesn’t offer. A recent legislative deal, unfortunately, shut the door on many families seeking to transfer to other districts or online charters, as most of the state’s per-pupil funding for their children would no longer follow them to their new school.

We’ve maintained a scorecard of legislator votes on business subsidies that shows how each lawmaker voted on bills authorizing new corporate welfare and how much each member voted for and against. Previously, these bills received overwhelming bipartisan support, but are now getting regular bipartisan opposition. And laws that authorize new spending are rarer, too.