The governor is loosening her lockdown orders, though what is and isn’t allowed to open still seems confusing and inconsistent. Closing lots of businesses by government decree has a questionable effect on reducing the harms of COVID-19, but a clearer effect on unemployment.
We at the Mackinac Center are deeply outraged and saddened by the events taking place today in our nation’s Capitol. As president, Donald Trump should be the foremost defender of our constitutional rule of law. His oath of office and allegiance to this country should compel him to denounce his supporters’ incursion of the Capitol and passionately call for them to withdraw immediately.
Throughout 2020, much of our attention has been focused on the uncertainties brought on by the novel coronavirus and the prolonged election season. With so much of our time and effort taken up by lockdowns, personal distancing and campaigns, it has been a struggle to keep track of many of the other issues that typically affect our lives.
In a previous blog post, I provided a year-end assessment of the fiscal goodies offered to corporations and industries in Michigan. Our state gives these taxpayer-funded subsidies to a lucky few in the name of “economic development.” That is, bureaucrats give your money to handpicked corporations in the hope of creating more jobs and economic growth than they think might exist without it.
For many students these days, getting to school entails logging on to a computer from the comforts of home. Yet as more families return to face-to-face instruction, the issue of school transportation will take on even greater significance than before.
For the most part, Michigan lawmakers kept an expansion of the state’s corporate handout complex at bay over the last year. In 2021, they should continue to trim taxpayer subsidies for corporations and industry. The money would be better spent addressing higher priorities.
Michigan lawmakers passed a temporary income tax hike in 2007 that’s still with us. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the governor’s insistence on raising taxes, Michigan’s finances are looking good. Lawmakers can afford to lower the income tax if it is important to them.
Editor's Note: This article was first published by The Detroit News on December 2, 2020.
Michigan lawmakers anticipate record levels of Medicaid enrollment next fiscal year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the federal government sends an increasing amount of money to state coffers. While Medicaid has been a significant part of the state budget for many years — almost one-third of the state’s total spending — the additional federal funds meant to supplement these rising costs come with conditions that threaten the program's integrity. The decisions and preparations lawmakers make now will determine how many tax dollars are protected for the truly needy individuals who rely on the program.
Many Michigan families are crying out for better learning options for their children than Zoom classrooms. State officials can step in to help but should be prepared to think outside the box.
Elementary and middle schools can still offer in-person instruction at the discretion of local authorities, yet some districts remain shuttered. In one prominent example, Ann Arbor school board members have turned their backs on hundreds of parents who have called on them to re-open classrooms for younger and disabled children.
Recent events have shown that qualified immunity gives government officials too much power, making it nearly impossible to hold them responsible for anything but the most heinous offenses. Although the issue of qualified immunity has come up during recent criticism of police, the problems with it extend beyond policing. Qualified immunity also prevents citizens from holding many other government officials accountable for their actions, too.
If Michigan lawmakers are going to keep handing out taxpayer money to select businesses, they ought to be more transparent about it. The state does an adequate job of disclosing some information, but there is much room for improvement, and there are some proposals in the Legislature toward that end.
The end of November marks the 45th anniversary of watershed federal legislation now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The law enshrined the idea that every child with disabilities is entitled to a meaningful education that is inclusive as possible. Even though time has changed many perceptions of what students with disabilities can achieve, progress toward fulfilling the vision has left many dissatisfied.
In her latest attack on Line 5, the pipeline that transports oil and natural gas liquids through the Straits of Mackinac, Michigan’s governor has moved to revoke the 1953 easement contract that allows the pipeline to operate. This arbitrary and ill-advised move will shutter a key part of the state’s essential energy infrastructure, increase the price of heating and transportation fuels, and threaten thousands of jobs across the region.
Throughout 2020, we have recognized the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by publishing a list of 50 reasons why people should be optimistic about our environment and our future. Human ingenuity is driving efficiency and technological improvements that are making the world better a better place for humans to thrive. Our last post took us past the halfway point of our list of 50. This post takes us almost to the end.
Traverse City has been rolling out a government-owned broadband network. But like most municipal internet systems across the country, it’s running behind schedule, over budget and attracting fewer customers than projected.
The city approved the initial rollout of the project in 2019, announcing that customers could begin signing up in fall of that year. Start-up costs were supposed to be more than $4 million, and the city kept pushing back the date when people could begin signing up.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appeared caught in a political pickle. In the spring, she seized unilateral control of Michigan’s policy response to COVID-19, effectively blocking all legislative initiative. The Michigan Supreme Court rebuked this approach and told the governor to work with the Legislature. But she simply pivoted to using other administrative powers and has remained in complete control of the entire state.
Some state and national leaders have questioned funding levels for charter public schools. But cutting funds for charter schools like those in Detroit would only widen the funding gap between them and neighboring school districts.
A new study from the University of Arkansas finds that, in 2017-18, Detroit charter schools took in 29% less revenue per student, on average, than the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Only a quarter of the gap is explained by extra costs the district must pay to teach more special education students. As large as Detroit’s gap is, 11 of the 18 U.S. cities in the national study revealed even greater funding inequities between charter and district-run schools.
The Great Lake State isn’t so great, according to the most recent rankings of economic freedom by the Canada-based Fraser Institute. In its annual study, “Economic Freedom of North America,” Michigan ranks 31st among U.S. states, which means we’re still aspiring just to be average. The institute also ranks 10 Canadian provinces and 32 Mexican states, using data through 2018.
An assessment by Multistate Associates, a state and local government relations firm, says that there is a “significant risk” that Michigan raises taxes in 2021.
The authors create an interesting framework to highlight some factors that lead to tax hikes, and Michigan triggers a number of them. They note that the governor supports increased taxes. Having spent most of 2019 arguing for $2.5 billion in tax hikes to spend $1.9 billion on roads, this is clearly the case.
Policymakers responding to the serious health concerns posed by COVID-19 are still obliged to operate within the bounds of our American system of government. This is why the Mackinac Center filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, challenging the governor’s expansive use of emergency powers. The successful lawsuit involved two claims. The first was that the governor illegally issued executive orders without the legislative approval required by a 1976 law. The second was that the governor violated the separation of powers doctrine through inappropriately using a law from 1945. The court agreed with both claims and ruled that the governor violated state law and the Michigan Constitution.
The Legislature had limited sessions this week with no roll call votes of general interest. Rather than votes, this Roll Call Report describes some recent constitutional amendment proposals of general interest.
Senate Joint Resolution Q: Ban banning state employees from communicating with a legislator
Michigan residents might be confused about why the state spends less on road funding, even though it elected a governor whose primary campaign promise was to fix roads.
Lawmakers had regularly increased road funding prior to her governorship. Spending on road funding, excluding federal transfers, increased from $2.0 billion to $3.6 billion between fiscal years 2010-11 and 2018-19, a 62% increase when adjusted for inflation. Part of the increase came from a $600 million tax hike in 2015.