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Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on April 19, 2020. 

These are unprecedented times. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s declared emergency may be the longest in the state’s history. The coronavirus outbreak and subsequent orders have Michigan residents everywhere stressed and worried for their health and their family and friends. But they’re also increasingly concerned with what this all might mean for the health of the state’s economy. Policymakers need to start planning to reopen Michigan’s economy as soon as possible.

The Environmental Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center recently joined a coalition of 52 free-market think tanks, small business representatives, and consumer groups in signing a letter supporting the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule. This rule, jointly issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Transportation Administration (an agency within the Department of Transportation), updates the current corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards that were put in place in 2012.

The constitutional freedoms to speech and assembly are in the news this past week. People across the country have gathered in their communities and state capitals to petition for relief from what they believe are harmful restrictions on personal and economic activity.

When a parent loses hours and pay at work, the family may have to revisit the household budget and ask what spending items can be cut back or done away with altogether. It can be a painful opportunity to reassess priorities.

Michigan’s school funding systems are more complex than a household budget, with many streams of funding and moving parts. But a similar reality is fast approaching for Lansing lawmakers. Less tax money will be available this year and next to fund the state’s public schools. Rather than cutting local agencies across the board, though, officials should look first to scale back the state’s 56 intermediate school districts.

Two troubling provisions were buried in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which became law last month.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play out in Michigan and elsewhere, it has deeply affected people’s economic and fiscal well-being and opportunities. It is prudent, then, to remind lawmakers that there is much evidence in favor of the idea that the best economic development tool is a free market, used by a free people to satisfy their wants and needs. This is not a commentary on today’s emergency health-related restrictions, as much as it is a reminder of what made for a sound economic policy before the pandemic and what will serve us well once it is behind us.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, better known by its acronym, MEGA. The MEGA is a selective business subsidy program that started small and grew into a monster corporate handout program. Gov. Rick Snyder wisely decided to stop handing out new deals from this program during his first year in office, but taxpayers are still on the hook for billions in subsidies and with little to show for it.

The legislature was formally in session one day this week, during which the only actions were a few new bill introductions. This Roll Call Report describes a package of bicameral Republican bills to amend the laws that authorize assumption by a governor of extraordinary powers during a declared emergency.

Much of the Michigan economy has been shut down for nearly a month and many are beginning to feel the effects. Though some businesses are temporarily shutting down, many are still finding creative ways to help with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Here’s our latest roundup of what businesses across the state are doing.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing havoc throughout the economy, and that applies to Michigan’s state and local governments and public sector employees, too. One of the areas where its harms will show up is in their pension systems. But it will take a while.

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a new shelter-in-place order, extending the stay-home mandate until April 30. The new order unleashed a wave of criticism. Here are five problems with the development and rollout of the new controversial order.

Michigan schools will soon be able to tap into extra money from Congress to address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. As these funds become available, state officials should focus as much as possible on the needs of students without regard to what kind of school they attend.

In the most recent federal spending bill, Congress authorized $150 billion to be paid out to states and some local governments. Michigan’s share of this is estimated at $3.9 billion, which can do a lot to prevent the state from approving emergency tax hikes, debt issuance, or spending reductions. But Congress placed restrictions on the assistance, saying the money could be used only to increase state spending directly related to COVID-19 rather than to provide budget relief from the expected loss of revenue.

Eventually the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic will run its course, and how long that takes will matter to the fiscal challenges Michigan’s state government will face. For example, the personal income tax is Michigan state government’s largest revenue source. Right now, it’s unclear how much the pandemic will cause state income tax collections to decrease as people stay home and lose earned income.

This week we are continuing to highlight ways Michigan businesses and individuals are changing their day-to-day operations to help out during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses have reconfigured themselves to make personal protection equipment for health care workers, including gowns, face shields and masks. More distilleries are starting to produce hand sanitizer, while another company is designing copper products that can stop the spread of germs. You can check out the complete roundup below.

Last week Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged the Legislature not to meet to discuss an extension of the state of emergency declared because of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This would be a mistake, and the governor should continue to embrace close collaboration with the Legislature and should not sideline it in this emergency.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s April 2 executive order to close down public school buildings for the rest of the academic year has set in motion a new education norm. The move to use distance learning in no way represents a popular preference that would be pursued under normal circumstances. Among the foremost concerns are how to help students with disabilities. Widely available digital tools, used in a partnership between schools and parents, offer the most likely path forward.

Quarantine measures put in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus have evoked a joyous response from the more extreme elements of the Green movement as they see human influences on the natural environment diminished. Rather than promoting the well-being and safety of humans, people with these extreme views actually celebrate as they see human society being harmed. But common sense tells us that humans are a part of the natural environment and that taking pleasure in the reduction of human well-being is a self-destructive habit that we can (and should) all firmly and politely reject.

In a previous blog post about Michigan and the COVID-19 coronavirus, I argued that Michigan’s public policy front today is much stronger than it was in years past. The reader may recall that the Great Lake State was subject to an economic one-two punch during the 2000s. It lived through a decade of lost growth — basically enduring its own, single-state recession — while also being pummeled by the national Great Recession starting in December 2007.

We recently featured a number of Michigan businesses that are taking the initiative and making a difference during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Today, we’re taking a look at even more businesses that have stepped up to help. From distilleries and chemical companies making hand sanitizer to shoe factories and volunteers making masks, businesses and people across the state are finding unique ways to help.

Before the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Michigan, lawmakers had negotiated a spending bill loaded with costs for legislator hobby horses — spending on particular parks, particular museums, and lots of other one-off items legislators requested. After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an emergency for the pandemic and ordered people to stay at home, these projects seem even more inappropriate. Gov. Whitmer was right to use her line item veto authority to get rid of this unnecessary spending.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread, many people are looking to the government for help. While the state government has implemented some positive reforms, there are other ways we can help each other. Thankfully, several businesses and even entire industries are helping meet the needs of the public. It’s encouraging to see Michigan businesses go above and beyond their normal operations to help. Below is a compilation of stories featuring Michigan businesses and individuals who are taking initiative and making a difference.

Americans, at this time, are riveted on containment and conquest of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This constitutes a sensible priority and necessary transition before taking the offensive against an even larger threat. Yet increasing portions of our population are focusing also on the longer-term, far more virulent adversary: Can a nation running $26 trillion in accumulated debt, atop a total of $122 trillion in unfunded liabilities, survive?

In response to the coronavirus emergency the legislature has scheduled tentative one-day-a-week sessions but is unlikely to meet again before April 21. During this period the roll call report will share descriptions of some interesting or noteworthy recent bill introductions, beginning with ones related to the epidemic and emergency response. Recent weekly roll call reports have described unanimous votes to fund state virus-response activities, but there have been no hearings or votes on these new bills.