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Many people across the ideological spectrum are deeply troubled by the dramatic increase in political polarization in recent years. It seems some of us have a hard time anymore thinking and speaking in terms of “We Americans.”

It’s been a long time, but I’m feeling some of that “We” today. The signal was my personal reaction to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s initial comments about the state’s response to the coronavirus epidemic, which came after reminding us, “We’re Michiganders. We’re tough.”

Last year, roughly a dozen Michigan lawmakers introduced bills to create perhaps the most stringent regime in the country when it comes to hunting and fishing guide licensure. They have since reworked the bills, but the proposals are still overly restrictive, and proponents have yet to explain exactly how these new regulations will do any good.

New numbers out from the state show that Michigan public schools have continued to receive ever-higher level of funding.

Student enrollment has dropped in recent years, but dollars contributed from key sources keep rising. In 2018-19, per-pupil spending and revenues both reached all-time highs. That remains true even when adjusting for inflation.

States have long had power over how alcohol is distributed and sold within their borders. This is an outgrowth of Prohibition’s repeal in 1933. Alcohol manufacturing and sale was again made legal then but states would impose a wide variety of controls over who makes, distributes and sells different types of alcohol, and often how much of that is done and by whom.

Some Michigan legislators have introduced bills that would take the money the state collects from the sales tax levied on fuel and spend it on roads. This would increase transportation funding without raising taxes. It also would mean we are no longer a rare state that applies the sales tax to fuel but doesn’t spend that revenue on roads.

Senate Bill 716: Require legislative authorization for transportation commission borrowing: Passed 22 to 16 in the Senate

To prohibit a state transportation commission from borrowing more than $100 million in any fiscal year without first giving the legislature at least 30 days' notice. The bill would empower the legislature to halt the borrowing with a majority vote in the House and Senate. If this bill were passed and signed by the Governor (unlikely), it would likely lead to suspension of $3.5 billion in road repair debt that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the commission to approve, which it did on Jan. 30, 2020.

The SEIU is making a huge political investment to defeat President Donald Trump and other Republicans in the 2020 election. Michigan will be a focus state. But workers previously forced to belong to the union are voting with their feet, suggesting many members may not be thrilled with this campaign.

A weekend column in the Detroit Free Press covered the efforts of the Michigan Film Industry Association to reinstitute taxpayer subsidies for movie and other productions. The state wasted more than $400 million before pulling the plug on the last film incentive. Most scholarly research finds state economic development — or, specifically, corporate and industrial welfare incentives — to be ineffective and often very expensive.

Michigan’s lawmakers are considering a bill to authorize $300 million more in economic development spending. The potential success of this spending relies on several assumptions. From what its supporters have claimed, here is the case for it:

The Midwest Economic Policy Institute has been producing papers about prevailing wage in different states, primarily Midwestern ones. The conclusions seem cookie cutter: States that maintain prevailing wage laws should keep them. States that have repealed them have only harmed workers, government budgets and communities. All reports share at least co-authorship by Frank Manzo IV, the director of a different policy institute.

The state House Tax Committee recently heard testimony from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. This was offered in response to a package of bills recently introduced to make the Michigan Strategic Fund and Michigan Economic Development Corporation more transparent and accountable to the public. These agencies oversee the state’s corporate handout programs.

The lowest funded of Michigan’s 15 public universities, Oakland University, is pushing a “Strive for 45” goal this year. The aim is for all universities to receive a minimum of $4,500 per student from taxpayers.

Senate Resolution B: Deny Heartwell nomination to chair Natural Resources Commission: Passed 20 to 17 in the Senate

To disapprove the appointment by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of former Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell as chairman of Michigan Natural Resources Commission. This follows the reportedly related Feb. 13 denial of Anna Mitterling's appointment to this commission, which has "exclusive authority to regulate the taking of game and sportfish" and designating which species may or may not be hunted. Heartwell’s nomination is opposed by the National Rifle Association because of his role as a “state membership coordinator” of antigun groups organized by former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority recently entered a decision regarding the rights of federal employees, a change the Mackinac Center had called for in rulemaking comments. Details follow, but essentially the decision means that federal employees who are unionized may opt out of union membership at any time. This ruling matters because unions often erect bureaucratic barriers to trap workers into membership, barriers the Mackinac Center has repeatedly challenged in court and won.

This morning, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a press release calling on the Michigan Legislature to delay implementing work and community engagement requirements for able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid benefits through the state’s Healthy Michigan program. Whitmer’s request comes on the heels of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The decision upheld a lower court ruling, which struck down similar requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. The lower circuit court said that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, or CMS, had not performed an adequate analysis of how the rules would affect coverage.

Are Michigan taxpayers undertaxed? The governor’s office seems to think so.

In a presentation to the Michigan Society of Association Executives, Michigan Deputy Treasurer Jeff Guilfoyle argued that Michigan taxes less than it used to. He pointed to the decrease in state taxes as a share of personal income, which is the state’s constitutional limit after voters approved the 1978 Headlee Amendment.

Senate Bill 432: Expand subsidies for certain research and development operations: Passed 38 to 0 in the Senate

To exempt from property taxes certain nonprofit operations that do product research and development for business and industry and also get certain state "economic development" subsidies and grants.
See Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Some say the future belongs to the cities and states that can attract young people, especially those with college degrees. Talented young people, they argue, are the fountainheads of economic growth, and therefore, the places that will prosper in the future will attract them. But the theory doesn’t hold up when you consider data about where and when people migrate. Michigan lawmakers should resist the temptation to create policies intended to target this population.

Michigan Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, is imploring state administrators to use better assumptions when determining how much they are going to put into the school employee retirement system. The state owes the retirees and employees in the system a lot more than it has saved, and using better assumptions can help it pay down the debt faster.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on Feb. 10, 2020. 

While Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decided that she will borrow billions to repair roads, she still wants to raise taxes to pay down the debts and increase road spending. In this regard, she will remain at loggerheads with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Two cities in one of the wealthiest areas in Michigan, which already has several competing providers offering high-speed internet access, are pushing to create a government-owned network. There is little upside to this idea and lots of downside.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clearly has made school systems a funding priority in her new budget proposal. It offers more money for one of the state’s most troubled districts, in a way that’s long on promoting more conversations and short on offering real solutions.

Senate Resolution A: Oppose Heartwell's NRC nomination by defeating Mitterling's: Passed 20 to 16 in the Senate

To disapprove the appointment by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Anna Mitterling to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission. Reportedly the real target of this action by the Senate Republican majority is Whitmer’s nomination of former Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell to be the chair of this commission, which has "exclusive authority to regulate the taking of game and sportfish," and designates which species may or may not be hunted. Heartwell’s nomination is opposed by the National Rifle Association because of his role as a “state membership coordinator” of antigun groups organized by former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

In 2015, legislators voted to increase the state’s homestead property tax credit, which would give some homeowners around $206 million of their tax dollars back. A couple years later, Michigan lawmakers voted against lowering the state income tax rate, which would have amounted to taxpayers keeping $463 million and would have lowered the state budget by the same amount. While their different budgetary effects may have made the homestead property tax bill easier to pass, it may also be that broad tax cuts are just less popular than tax redistribution.

Less than two months after putting a prolonged budget debate to bed, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a sizable school aid spending increase for next year. Once again, she seeks a large funding boost for preschool, but this time wants funds to create a separate, more restrictive program.