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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the 2020 fiscal year budget into law on Sept. 30. In a late flurry of line-item vetoes, she zeroed out $37.5 million in funding for the state’s Pure Michigan program. For this, she deserves full-throated praise and applause. The Legislature should take its own bow, too. In the days following the governor’s vetoes, legislators introduced supplemental budget bills to restore many of the vetoed line items — but not this one.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on September 19, 2019. 

A collective of influential green groups and corporations is supporting a campaign for a global climate strike from Sept. 20-27. The strike pushes young people to walk out of schools and workplaces to protest the energy sources that keep us alive and thriving. That many people are concerned about the global climate is obvious, but how will encouraging them to abandon their jobs or schools for a day or two, or seven, reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in The Hill on September 14, 2019.

The states of Missouri and Kansas recently made history by agreeing to no longer pay companies to hop back and forth across the state line in the Kansas City metropolitan area. It’s the first such legally binding deal between two states in U.S. history. It also strikes at a left-right consensus that could save tens of billions of dollars for vital public services. This idea should be adopted more widely.

Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Detroit News on September 29, 2019. 

There are around 70 million Americans with a criminal record. In Michigan, estimates range from 500,000 to 2 million, depending on the type of record. Every year, about 50,000 people are convicted of a felony crime in the Great Lakes State.

In a previous blog post about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed ban on flavored vaping products, I gave a few reasons why the ban was a bad idea. Among them were a shift back to more dangerous combustible cigarettes, a possible increase in cigarette smuggling and the smuggling of flavored vaping products, not all of which would be legal and safe.

Lansing hasn’t seen a tense budget showdown like this for a while. The Democratic governor and Republican-led Legislature have pointed fingers at each other and traded accusations to back their priorities and explain their inability to reach a consensus.

For decades, state taxpayers have supported the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which distributes select tax incentives, credits and subsidies to chosen businesses and industries. The MEDC has a dreadful track record. It has approved money for a convicted felon, given hundreds of millions for battery companies and green energy projects that went bust, and a miniscule number of companies chosen to receive money met their job projections.

The Michigan Legislature has approved a budget that spends more money on roads (among other areas) without raising taxes. That is good news. In addition, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she won’t veto any department budgets and shutdown state government. More good news.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on September 6, 2019. 

This year’s class of Michigan third-graders heads back to school as the state’s first to face real consequences if they have not learned how to read. Some schools may find the change uncomfortable. But embracing the extra pressure, along with the added tools to help educators succeed, can provide a small, sure step toward needed improvements.

Some lawmakers intend to extend a scheduled sunset on a state program of corporate fiscal favors that proponents presumptuously call “Good Jobs for Michigan.” That is a misnomer. It should instead be called “MEGA 2: Subsidies for Large Conglomerates.” That’s because the program is modeled on the state’s failed Michigan Economic Growth Authority, and supporters cannot prove that ‘good jobs’ wouldn’t have been created without the program.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on September 21, 2019.

In midst of union scandals, failed organizing attempts and a recent dues hike, the UAW decided to strike against GM, leaving what could have been a reasonable start to negotiations on the table. Scores of articles have been written about the strike, several of which allege it is helping the UAW distract from its real problems.

Legislators approved budgets this week for the upcoming fiscal year, just ahead of the new fiscal year that starts in October.

The budget continues to grow even without the governor’s recommended tax increases. Michigan’s state budget would increase from $57.3 billion in the current fiscal year to $58.8 billion in the upcoming fiscal year if the Legislature’s approved budgets are signed into law. The amount of money the state collects from taxes and fees increases from $34.0 billion to $35.1 billion.

Tensions are growing high in Lansing around the unresolved state budget. As the end of the fiscal year approaches, the more rhetoric separates itself from reality. The debate about K-12 spending levels is a prime example. The proposed increase in the Legislature’s newly adopted school aid budget is smaller than the governor’s, but that relatively small difference is rarely given proper perspective.

A pervasive theme, which has wound its way through the Democratic Party debates and primary campaign, was again highlighted in the Climate Town Hall held earlier this month. The 10 candidates who spoke at the event all warned that we face an existential climate threat. But their unsettling string of expansive and expensive policies to ostensibly stop global warming give new meaning to the old phrase, “The cure is worse than the disease.”

Most job creation happens without a press release. Job loss, too. Because of this, residents underappreciate the massive number of people who are losing jobs and finding others that occurs regularly in the economy.

This becomes a problem when it comes to state economic development strategies. Instead of policies which affect the majority of businesses, the state collects money from all taxpayers to hand out to a select few businesses. This buys state officials stories about how they’ve improved the state’s economic development, but the examples aren’t enough to deliver the broad-based economic growth that benefits everyone.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 29, 2019.

With economic growth in recent years, most states’ budgets have steadily grown. This has allowed them to increase the amount of money put into their pension systems and pay down debts that have developed. But an economic slowdown could stall all of this progress.

The United Auto Workers is on strike, shutting down plants across Michigan and elsewhere. In the decade since the union last called a strike, four states with a heavy UAW presence – Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky – have all become right-to-work states.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced that she intends to ban flavored vaping products in Michigan. Her argument is that these products are attractive to children and may get them started on a dangerous habit.

While that may be true, prohibiting flavored vaping products (with or without nicotine) would bring negative consequences that might offset any good she was trying to accomplish. There are better ways to prevent children (and adults) from starting a vaping or smoking habit than an outright ban.

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, introduced a bill to eliminate the state’s business subsidy deals signed between 1995 and 2012. These agreements are estimated to cost taxpayers $6.4 billion beyond what the companies have already collected. This program was unquestionably bad policy, and it is good that lawmakers want to stop the expense. But there is a question about whether they can put an end to these deals.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles featuring the perspectives of current and recent Michigan public school teachers’ experiences with school choice. See the first article here.

Michigan’s corporate handout programs are ineffective, unfair and expensive. Lawmakers should end them.

They are ineffective because they are just not up to the scale necessary to develop the economy. A massive churn of jobs goes on in the economy, and politicians don’t have much of a say about it. Over the last three months of 2018, Michigan added 212,000 jobs and lost 196,000 jobs — adding one job for every 18 jobs in existence, and losing one out of every 19 jobs.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on August 21, 2019.

This summer marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, which ruled that public employees have a constitutional right to quit their union and stop paying dues. This week is National Employee Freedom Week, a time to celebrate workers’ rights such as these. Yet in many states, governors, attorneys general and lawmakers are undermining public employees, making it harder for them to exercise their constitutional rights. That’s why, even a year after the monumental Janus decision, many public employees are still forced to fight for their freedom in the courts.

Senate Bill 23, Authorize prison for “porch pirates”: Passed 106 to 3 in the House

To make stealing or intercepting mail or packages left in or near a person’s mailbox a crime, with penalties of up to one year in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense, and for a second and subsequent offense, up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine. The Senate has since concurred with the House changes and sent the bill to the governor for approval.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 17, 2019.

Political polarization in the U.S. reportedly has attained levels comparable to just before the Civil War. Whether as a cause or an effect, standards of behavior in the public and political spheres also have plummeted. Calls to restore “civility” are a frequent response, but there’s a great deal of confusion on what this important concept actually entails. It’s easy to imagine it means something like, “Can’t we all just get along?”