Blog

As legislators discuss how to respond to Gov. Whitmer’s plan to fix the roads by taxing fuel at the highest rates in the country, residents should know that Lansing has more money in this recovery to address state fiscal priorities.

The state is currently budgeted to spend $8.7 billion more in revenue from the income tax, the sales tax, fuel taxes and other state revenue sources than it did in 2010. This is a 14.5 percent revenue gain above inflation.

As part of her first budget proposal, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to shower more tax money on the state's preschool program. Yet this strategy offers very little hope of improving "early learning and literacy," as touted.

Whitmer's executive budget includes a call for an extra $84 million for the state's Great Start Readiness Program. GSRP is the state's program to subsidize preschool enrollment for 4-year-olds who are "educationally disadvantaged." The funding is distributed through the state's intermediate school districts. In 2018, ISDs used about 9 percent of GSRP funds for administrative and central office services.

If you want to teach at a public school in Michigan, including at a charter school, you’ll end up taking a lot of tests. Most of these will take place while you’re getting a college degree, but even when that’s done, the state mandates a series of other exams to get and stay licensed.

Quietly but effectively, Frontier International Academy has stood out in making a positive impact on the newer, less privileged American high schoolers who have enrolled there.

On the most recent edition of Mackinac Center's Context and Performance Report Card, Frontier ranked 11th out of 674 high schools statewide. A longer-term measure proved equally remarkable. Combining measured performance from the last 11 years, only five Michigan high schools earned a higher score.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to increase the state gas tax by 45 cents per gallon to finance road infrastructure repair and upgrades. The Mackinac Center ran this scenario through a Michigan-specific software package called the State Tax Analysis Modeling Program, or STAMP, to measure its impact on the economy.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on February 23, 2019.

The so-called “pension tax” affects a lot of people in Michigan. It’s why there’s been so much interest in it since it was passed in 2011 as part of a larger tax reform to reduce business taxes. With a new governor in office, there is interest in revisiting it. Especially so when you consider that 8 percent of taxpayers are subject to it.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on February 15, 2019. 

A deadly cold front recently swept through the Midwest, but thanks to nuclear energy, coal and natural gas, things did not turn out as badly as they could have. Most people stayed warm and safe because they trusted affordable, reliable and secure domestic energy sources that have served us for decades.

Some educational improvements don't require a drastic overhaul. Eau Claire High School's sure and steady climb in academic results shows how a persistent focus in a few key areas can reap rewards.

The southwest Michigan school fell short of expectations on Mackinac Center's 2012 Context and Performance Report Card, earning a D grade. But by focusing on a few key themes, the rural school has gradually risen from near the bottom to near the top. Eau Claire improved one letter grade on each subsequent report card, receiving an A on the edition released last month. The Center’s unique report card grades schools on multiple years of state test scores and adjusts these scores based on a school’s poverty rate.

Gov. Whitmer wants more college graduates in Michigan. It’s not clear how she wants to accomplish this, outside of a new scholarship. There’s one thing that clearly doesn’t work, however: blanketing state universities with more taxpayer spending.

In 2018, two Detroit funeral homes made national news when they were found to be violating state laws and even improperly storing the remains of dozens of infants. Michigan’s licensing agency is suspending their licenses and attempting to permanently ban their operators from ever being licensed again. But these incidents demonstrate how limited licensing laws can be in protecting the public.

The Michigan Legislature is considering bills that would require law enforcement officials to secure a criminal conviction before taking ownership of private property through civil asset forfeiture. Some police and prosecutors are fighting hard against this important reform. Their critiques, however, paint a distorted picture of how forfeiture is actually used in Michigan.

In a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, justices ruled unanimously that the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on “excessive fines” applies to the states and the federal government. It can also be considered in cases of civil asset forfeiture.

In her Feb. 12 State of the State speech, Gov. Whitmer claimed that climate change-induced extreme temperature swings were already endangering the health and well-being of Michigan residents. But a quick look at the science and at past temperature records indicates the governor’s warning may not be a cause for concern.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is currently reviewing the state business subsidy program known as the Texas Enterprise Fund, and he wants money back from companies that don’t create as many jobs as promised. But an article on his review includes an interesting comment. “The enterprise fund is widely considered the largest deal-closing incentive fund in the country, [emphasis added] meaning it’s designed to provide the final carrot that swings a decision on a corporate relocation or expansion.”

Senate Bill 2, Require conviction for seized property ownership forfeiture: Passed 36 to 2 in the Senate

In her recent State of the State address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rightly pointed out that Michigan needs to spend more money on roads.

In her first State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made no mention of the state’s criminal justice system. With millions of Michiganders potentially affected by the system, there’s much to be said about it, and why criminal justice reform should be high on the list of state priorities.

There have been bills introduced to repeal the state’s so-called pension tax ever since it was first enacted in 2011. Revisiting and possible repealing it is viewed as a potential area of bipartisan agreement. It’s unsurprising since a lot of people were affected by the tax.

Union membership continued its long-term downward trend — declining again in 2018. At the same time, the number of jobs across the nation increased as well as household income.

This information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor in its annual report. Union members declined by 0.2 percentage points — from 10.7 percent of the workforce to 10.5 percent. Other data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the U.S. has continued to gain jobs, adding 2.4 million in 2018 and with average weekly earnings up 3.0 percent — well above the rate of inflation.

The latest Global Think Tank Report has been released and it ranks the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as the 85th best policy institute in the United States, putting it among the top 5 percent in the nation.

For decades, Michigan lawmakers have voted in a bipartisan manner to give taxpayer dollars to select corporations. The nature and scope of these programs have changed, but one consistent theme remains: they rarely create the jobs politicians promise they will.

The Michigan Municipal League regularly makes the case that the state government should transfer more money to municipal governments. But MML Communications Director Matt Bach overstated one point when he said, “Across the country, Michigan ranks 50th — DEAD LAST — in investing in its communities since 2002.”

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on January 29, 2019.

Last June the Supreme Court overturned years of legal precedent and effectively granted states greater taxing powers over transactions that involve out-of-state retailers. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case, known as South Dakota v. Wayfair, makes it easier for Michigan’s Treasury to raise revenue — an estimated $200 million-plus per year, according to published estimates. Yet taking advantage of this “opportunity” means pulling more taxes from the wallets of Michigan taxpayers while imposing job-killing compliance burdens on small and medium-sized businesses that sell products online.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 18, 2019.

It’s said that the punishment ought to fit the crime, but that adage is coming undone now that having a criminal record has become a lifelong sentence for millions of Americans. One reason: Technology has made it easier than ever to access public records. As a result, individuals whose crimes were minor, are decades old, or both, nevertheless face a stigma that could harm their employment and education prospects until they die. This is bad for public safety and for the workforce, but a simple policy change could correct the problem.

State of the System