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Lobbying groups representing the American Music Therapy Association and its sister organization, the Certification Board for Music Therapists, have pushed for state licensing laws all across the nation. These new occupational licenses would force music therapists to obtain a degree from programs approved by the therapy association, force people to pay to take tests offered by the certification board and use regulations to lock out competition from those who want to practice.

Corporate handouts are ineffective, unfair and also transfer money from taxpayers to wealthy business owners. But they get also strong bipartisan support. They are also the subject of a scorecard the Mackinac Center compiles, which shows how state politicians vote on business subsidies and how much they have voted for. There have been no additions to the scorecard so far in the first eight months of the Whitmer administration. But there may be by year’s end as lawmakers consider extending one subsidy program before it expires.

The lobbyist for Michigan’s 15 public universities says taxpayers are to blame for tuition hikes, an insufficient number of poor kids attending college, a lack of a talented workforce and the state missing out on the Amazon headquarters. But there’s little evidence for this.

Laws that provide special tax incentives to promote farmland preservation already skew land use decisions. We shouldn’t obscure market signals even further by subsidizing people who build renewable energy facilities on that same land.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recently tweaked the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program to expand solar development in Michigan. The program, established by Public Act 116 of 1975, currently covers approximately one-third of the state’s 10 million acres of farmland. Through it, the state hands out special tax incentives and exemptions in ten-year blocks to landowners who enroll in the program and then commit to preserve their farmland for agricultural purposes.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 9, 2019.

Here they go again, attempting to take away the secret ballot in union elections.

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

Having worked in different kinds of public schools, one Michigan teacher has found a charter school advantage.

A Mackinac Center Legal Foundation lawsuit filed on behalf of attorney Lucille Taylor has received wide media attention.

Approximately 40,000 lawyers are forced by law to pay $315 every year to the State Bar of Michigan. The bar association uses the money, in part, to take stances on controversial political issues, such as the regulation of money in politics, the death penalty, spending on judicial campaigns, proposed criminal justice laws and more.

There is at least one major area of agreement between the Obama administration and the Trump administration: Occupational licensing laws are mostly ineffective. These laws that mandate workers complete hours of training and educational coursework, pay fees and pass tests cost the economy billions and rarely provide a benefit to public safety.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 2, 2019.

The challenge of regenerating impoverished communities in a way that their existing residents benefit long has vexed policymakers. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that influxes of capital investment tend to push out the people who live there. They get replaced by residents who have more education and higher incomes. Gentrification doesn’t solve poverty so much as move it around, goes the thinking.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican lawmakers are at a budget impasse. Most of the focus has been on transportation spending; the governor wants a massive fuel tax increase while lawmakers do not. But the heart of the fight is over other budget issues.

If you want to live a long, healthy life, you shouldn’t wait until your 80s to take up jogging and add vegetables to your diet. Rather, you have to make decisions daily that put your long-term health above short-term pleasures, like that one extra slice of cake. Municipalities hold a similar responsibility when it comes to the health of their pension systems. If they defer paying for them too long, they can get out of control, and then it might be too late.

The governor and legislative leadership want to make a road funding deal part of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. If they are unable to pass a budget by October, the state government shuts down and only the “essential” state operations continue until they approve a new budget. That is a good reason to pass a budget before the deadline. But there is no good reason to shut down the government if they can’t find a consensus about road funding.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a line item in a bill that would have provided $10 million to compensate individuals wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. The action raised eyebrows, as political support for the compensation is all but universal. But the governor was actually taking a stand in defense of one of the three provisions of the Michigan Constitution that provides for direct democracy.

The number of school librarians in Michigan has declined as of late and some state lawmakers want to mandate every school to hire one, with the hope that this will improve literacy rates. This would be expensive and probably ineffective. But if lawmakers want more librarians, there is a way to get them with minimal costs – reform state licensing laws.

As part of a compromise to get a business subsidy program approved in 2017, lawmakers agreed to limit it to $200 million. They also agreed to stop awarding new deals in 2020, but as that deadline nears, lawmakers will be tempted to extend the program. They should resist.

Is the quality of the air getting worse? Changes in government standards — and a focus on the most distressing points in the data — may give that impression. But that data, when viewed from a long-term perspective, shows that air pollution has decreased over the past few decades.

Editor's Note: This piece first appeared in The Detroit News on Aug. 5, 2019. 

In 2017, lawmakers adopted a new corporate subsidy giveaway that supporters called the "Good Jobs for Michigan" program. It provides tax incentives to lure big, sometimes multinational, corporations into relocating to or expanding in Michigan.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on July 23, 2019. 

A long list of governments bent over backward to give taxpayer money to Amazon for its HQ2 project. That was a national embarrassment, and we’re not the only ones to think so. Local officials implied as much when they made their bids confidential. When they think it’s possible to offer public money to a private company and keep it a secret, they insult the public. Everyone deserves this basic level of government transparency.

In the height of summer comes news of the death of a former Michigander who helped refine winter and the Winter Olympics, introducing a sport and a cultural phenomenon that brings joy (and sometimes frustration!) to millions.

Sherman Poppen died on July 31 at the age of 89, but for most people, his life was defined by something he did on Christmas Day, 1965. Poppen was at his Muskegon home, looking for a way to entertain his young daughters. He fashioned some old skis into a new device for sliding down the snow while standing up. He eventually called it a Snurfer, and Brunswick, the company best known for making bowling pins, sold many of them. My mother worked at Brunswick, so I had two different models, and I kept falling off each one.

The governor ran on a promise to fix the roads and to fix them with more money. It turns out that the “more money” part of her pitch mattered more than fixing roads. This preference was part of her campaign even if it wasn’t her main talking point; residents can now hear the dissonance between the two goals in the current road funding debate.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on July 12, 2019.

When a major electric utility plans to fundamentally restructure its generation system, ratepayers would do well to compare the plan with similar ones implemented by utilities in nearby jurisdictions. If the other attempts led to widespread economic damage and higher electricity rates, the new proposal should be soundly rejected.

On July 8, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined to announce a campaign focused on removing stigmas about skilled trades jobs and highlighting career options that do not involve enrolling in college. This program represents the latest effort in Whitmer’s mission to close the so-called skills gap in Michigan, which has included a plan to increase per-pupil funding for K-12 career and technical education from $50 to $487 per student. While well-intentioned, these initiatives may simply increase enrollment and spending for programs that have not proven themselves effective. To truly solve the problems the governor seeks to tackle, a more serious reform of career and technical education is needed.

The idea of increasing tax rates — including, most recently, imposing a graduated income tax — gets treated seriously by journalists and editors in the state. Proposals to cut taxes, by contrast, often get belittled, and proponents are treated like they have pathological disorders. That portrayal is not coming from the advocates for a larger government; it is coming from our news outlets.

In attempting to find more resources for road repairs, lawmakers seem to have painted themselves into a corner. They want a lot of money and they want it now, but they can’t raise taxes or cut the budget. A number of proposals have been made to increase taxes, and we’ve promoted some ways to save money. But lawmakers can also wait.