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People stopped riding the bus in Michigan when the pandemic happened, and they haven’t come back. They took 83 million rides on government-run transit systems in 2019. This fell to 32 million rides in 2021. With a 61% drop in riders over just two years, people might worry that bus service in the Great Lake State is in dire shape. It’s not. Transit gets more money than ever, despite serving fewer than half the people it used to. This points to a service that is in dire need of a rethink.

The decisions and activities of the state Supreme Court can seem hidden from view of normal voters. It’s not often that they make the news. That’s why my friend Alisha wanted to know about it. And this week we speak about it with Cliff Taylor, a former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court for the Overton Window podcast.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget proposal harms some of the state’s most at-risk students. The executive budget includes a 20% cut in funding for students enrolled in online charter schools. And it creates an additional hurdle for disadvantaged students who need access to high-quality education opportunities.

There exist enough resources to provide the 10 million people of our state the energy they need. What Michigan lacks is the political will to insist on reliable energy, preferring instead weather-dependent sources such as wind and solar. Michigan’s coming energy crisis will be man-made.

Michigan’s Democratic majority lawmakers demand that people working in unionized private sector workplaces pay unions to keep their jobs. That’s what repealing the state’s right-to-work law will accomplish, but you’d never know that from what legislators have said.

On Jan. 30, President Joe Biden tweeted:

On my watch, the great American road trip is going to be fully electrified.

And now, through a tax credit, you can get up to $7,500 on a new electric vehicle.

There were just a few problems, as Twitter users were quick to point out.

The following are the polls taken about “right-to-work” laws in Michigan in recent years. Right-to-work makes it illegal for people to forced to pay dues or fees to a union even if they work in a unionized workplace and under a collective bargaining agreement. Michigan passed a right-to-work law in December of 2012.

This article originally appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business March 13, 2023. 

The choice between a top-down or bottom-up economic approach is becoming clear as Lansing politicians prepare for two important debates.

Legislative Democrats are considering a bill to repeal the state's right-to-work law, while also supporting plans backed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to use billions in state funds to subsidize a handful of rich corporations. One such plan, according to published reports, may add nearly $750 million in fiscal favors to a state incentive package for Ford Motor Co. and would raise the value of its incentive deal to nearly $1.8 billion.

In its latest report, Education Trust-Midwest calls for the urgent implementation of “solution-based, research-based strategies” to address the disparate learning losses experienced by low-income students during the pandemic. To increase test scores, one of Ed Trust’s top priorities is to significantly increase the amount of money schools receive on behalf of their low-income students.

Michigan has long had programs in place to help low-income households. Food, housing, health care, day care, preschool, tax credits and more. These programs have traditionally been limited to those who truly need it, with eligibility based on income.

That is changing. Activist groups have pushed for years to expand social welfare programs to more people. They often exaggerate economic doldrums and broaden the definition of poverty to make their case. The bottom line is that expanding means-tested programs does nothing for those truly in need. It simply doles out benefits to wealthier and wealthier households.

Knowing some basics of the U.S. Constitution will aid in understanding the role the Michigan Constitution plays in our lives. In particular, it is important to know about the concept of enumerated versus plenary powers, as well as the federal supremacy clause.

Any government project bigger than building a road should draw your skepticism. 

You should understand titles like “The Inflation Reduction Act” to be fictitious, not a comment on what will happen after a law is passed.

When the U.S. president stands at a podium and announces a plan for regime change in foreign lands, or to eradicate climate change, you should know that’s far beyond their paygrade. They’ll spend your tax money, sure. But government is not in the problem-solving business. 

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have introduced separate legislation expanding Michigan’s earned income tax credit, signaling it as a top priority for both caucuses. The bills are being called tax cuts by various media outlets, including MLive, The Detroit News, and Bridge.

Michigan has operated a negative tax for over a decade now, and it’s worth reminding residents of its continued existence.

A negative tax does not raise money for the government. It instead redistributes money to the tax’s filers. In Michigan’s case, those filers happen to be the state’s largest companies.

There are important questions that must be asked in public debates. How people answer them matters to elected officials. Too often, however, politicians and reporters ask the wrong questions. Here are some common ones that pop up regularly, with examples of better questions that we ought to be asking.

Michigan Capitol Confidential has begun The Michigan Constitution Project.

This year we will educate our readers on our state constitution, with the understanding that it has more depth than just the words on the page. Over time, a citizenry ignorant of the law and unwilling to hold bureaucrats accountable will lose its freedom. Let’s remain free.

Could Michigan students be facing an even greater decline in achievement in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? Proposals by lawmakers to reduce school accountability and transparency are setting the stage for more poor outcomes in the absence of consistent, transparent and straightforward school performance measures.

Michigan has a group of new lawmakers with new priorities. Democratic control of both the Michigan House and Senate has many people wondering whether they’ll pay higher taxes next year.

It’s possible. But there are reasons why the Legislature’s new Democratic majorities should reconsider any plans for a tax hike.

This article originally appeared in The Detroit News March 9.

Nearly 40% of adults in Michigan experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Sadly, many are unable to receive the care they need, in large part due to a lack of mental health care providers in the state. And the problem of provider shortages is not confined to mental health care. Michigan has 269 primary care health professional shortage areas — a federal designation for regions with too few providers.

Parts of this article were taken from testimony prepared by Michael LaFaive for the House Labor Committee in the Michigan House of Representatives on House Bill 4007. The House passed the bill Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on it next week.

Prevailing wage mandates artificially lift the cost of government construction projects by forcing bidders to pay the local or, “prevailing,” wage in a particular area. Typically, that means union scale wages.

Two years ago, no state gave all parents money to help educate their children. Few states went from a graduated income tax system — where people pay higher tax rates as they earn more income — to a flat-rate income tax where all income is taxed at the same rates. Iowa did both, and I talk about that with John Hendrickson of the Iowans for Tax Relief Foundation for the Overton Window podcast.

Should a local government be allowed to foreclose on a property for tax debt, then refuse to compensate the owner for any of the property’s value over the amount of the taxes owed? The Mackinac Center has filed a brief in support of the taxpayer in a United States Supreme Court case that would decide whether a process widely known as “equity theft” should continue.

This article originally appeared in Bridge Michigan February 2, 2023.

Ten years.

I remember December 11, 2012 very clearly. That was the day I and thousands of other union workers in Michigan rejoiced at the passage of Michigan’s workplace fairness law – also called Right-to-Work. The law went into effect in March 2013, and any union contract afterward banned the practice of forcing workers to pay money to a union or be fired.For ten years, we enjoyed our workplace freedom.

Democrats hold majorities in both Michigan legislative chambers for the first time in a generation, and now that they’ve had a few months in office, we’re getting a sense of what their priorities are. Their top priority is to offer big businesses more subsidies.

The United Auto Workers negotiates contracts with the Big 3 auto manufacturers in Michigan as well as many smaller employers. The union has about 134,000 total members in the state.

The UAW in Michigan has lost about 10,000 members in the past decade, despite job increases in manufacturing. Why? Michigan lawmakers passed a right-to-work law in 2012 that freed workers from being forced to contribute to labor unions.