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This article originally appeared in The Detroit News August 24 2022.

For the second time in under a year, a U.S. District Court Judge has ruled against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. The federal court rejected Nessel’s argument that state actions to shutter the Line 5 pipeline should be considered in a state court, upholding the federal government’s jurisdiction over interstate and international pipelines.

This article originally appeared in The Hill August 22, 2022. 

It’s common to hear people refer to states as “red” or “blue,” or even “purple,” based on whether a majority of Republicans or Democrats get elected. It would be a mistake to think that red states are all the same or that blue states all enact the same kinds of policies. States are far more complex than these partisan caricatures suggest, and policies are based as much on what is popular as they are by their political officeholders.

Arizona became the second state to offer all school age children an education scholarship that their parents can use to support their education as they choose. I speak about it with Matt Beienburg of the Goldwater Institute, a free market think tank in Arizona, on this Overton Window podcast. He also talked about how this scholarship can change the face of education.

This article originally appeared in The Hill October 1, 2022.

Nuclear power is back in vogue, buoyed by the demand for a significant source of emissions-free energy. Government should encourage the trend by ending policies that prevent the only reliable carbon dioxide-neutral energy source from flourishing.

Which candidate for governor supports handing over taxpayer money to business owners and managers? In an advertisement against Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, the Democratic Governors Association alleges that she wants “tax giveaways for billionaires.”

Traverse City’s public electric utility, Traverse City Light & Power, launched a government-owned internet network in 2020. TCLPfiber is backed by tens of millions of tax dollars and is rolling out in five phases, with broadband being built out and plans sold to customers.

Midland is Michigan’s top performing metropolitan area in an index of economic freedom. It is also the only metro area in Michigan with an economic freedom score that exceeds the national average. This is important because higher economic freedom scores typically do better on important outcomes — such as employment growth — than those with lower ones.

In March 2022, the city of Detroit laid out plans to build and manage its own broadband network. The stated goal is to hook up every address in Detroit to “world class fiber optic connectivity” for half what high-speed internet currently costs. Well, it’s off to a poor start.

If college affordability is a crisis, is the answer to throw more money at the problem?

When passing the state budget in June, lawmakers set aside $250 million for a scholarship program but did not sketch out the details.

Now, they’ve approved a program that will provide $5,500 annually for students attending state universities for up to five years and $2,750 annually for students attending community college for up to three years. Eligibility is based on income, but the cutoff is high: students whose families make $120,000 or less annually would likely qualify.

Legislators approved a bill in September to spend an extra $1 billion, and the package includes $596.1 million in new business subsidies.

The money goes into a program created in 2021 that hands out money to select companies. The amount a company can receive is not subject to any limit other than what legislators have allocated into the fund. Legislators also required any deal to be confirmed by the legislature’s appropriations committees.

Shifting the Overton Window can take a lot. It can take important research to answer vital questions. Digging deep to tell the stories about the people harmed by the status quo, clever marketing and careful outreach. And lots of patience. Jarrett Skorup helped put all of these together for his work to change Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws, and I speak with him about it for this week’s Overton Window podcast.

The Michigan legislature approved almost $850 million for new corporate handout deals last week. Research shows that these types of subsidies are ineffective and expensive, but there was a silver lining. It was an appropriation made in a very public way and thanks to a law that demands modestly more transparency and accountability than past business subsidy dealings.

Michigan needs more people working as nurses, but it’s become harder to find them. This has led to an increase in hospitals using travel nurses and the companies who staff them.

Because of the increase in demand, staffing companies can charge high prices and travel nurses are making a lot of money. Hospitals and nursing homes would prefer to pay less money for this service, so they are supporting House Bill 6364 which would limit how much these temp agencies can charge.

Michigan has just over 32,000 prisoners and spent $1.4 billion on them in the latest fiscal year. That’s more than $40,000 per prisoner. This hefty price tag is often compared to school funding, which amounts to “just” $17,000 per student.

A union-backed school board candidate cites this difference in spending as a reason Michigan schools need more money. The ratio of student-to-inmate spending has been made into popular memes and gifs. The Washington Post says we need to redirect money from prisons to schools. The Daily Mail contrasts this as “incarceration vs. education.”

Michigan’s Strategic Fund awarded $25.5 million this week to a project at the former General Motors steering division plant in Saginaw. The deal promises to “retain 1,100 jobs” while helping what sounds like a market innovator: Motion control technology company Nexteer boasts the power to accelerate mobility in order to make it “safe, green and exciting,” according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement of the payment.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy recommends a NO vote on the conference report for Senate Bill 844, the budget supplemental expected to be considered in both houses later today. We specifically oppose the $846.1 million line item for deposit into the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund.

Elected officials want to pass popular legislation. They have to rely upon their senses to figure it out when they deal with complicated issues. One way politicians make sense of what voters want is to listen to the conversation going on across the country and the reaction to laws that are passed in other states. Jonathan Williams, the chief economist and executive vice president of policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council, helps legislators hear what is going on in other states at the conventions his organization hosts. I speak with him about it for this week’s Overton Window podcast.

Just over 10 years ago, the Hoosier State adopted a powerful economic development tool in the form of a right-to-work law. This law simply states that workers need not be required to financially support or join a union to keep their jobs. Scholarship generally shows right-to-work laws are beneficial to workers and to job providers in states that adopt them. Our new research shows this as well.

Companies lobby state governments for grants, loans, tax breaks and other favors. Greg LeRoy at Good Jobs First wants state lawmakers to deny those requests. And I speak with him about it for this week’s Overton Window podcast.

“The things that benefit all employers — a good school system, efficient infrastructure, public safety, public health, the lowest tax rate and the broadest tax base to allow for efficient fair government and public services — all those suffer because now you’re hoarding and putting a lot of eggs in a few baskets,” LeRoy says.

Michigan’s balanced budget requirements allow legislators to spend as much money as they get in revenue, plus anything they’ve saved, but no more. Lawmakers practiced a remarkable level of restraint this year by not spending $7 billion in available revenue. There is a dispute among elected officials about whether to spend this money or use it to reduce taxes. The spenders have been winning the debate, though, since spending has increased a lot during the last three years.

Determinants of economic and other measures of well-being have been debated for hundreds of years. Adam Smith — the grandfather of modern economics — wrote his magnum opus, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” on the subject.

People are worrying about whether job cuts at their workplace are around the corner. Inflation-adjusted Gross Domestic Product declined for six months, after all, and this is a conventional measure for when the economy is in a recession. But so far, the economy has been adding jobs. The number of jobs in the United States went up in July, making it back to where it was before the pandemic. But Michigan hasn’t made it back. And that’s why Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ought to stop vetoing tax cuts.

Regardless of which party controls Congress or the White House, the one thing that Washington politicians seem to agree on is the desire to spend more. Michigan’s state government has been a beneficiary of Washington’s excess.

The federal government showered states with money since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, both with special spending bills and by increasing spending through the normal federal budget process. State officials in Michigan expected to receive $23.1 billion from the federal government when they enacted the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.

Ryan Green and Austin Berg work at Iron Light and consult with advocates around the country to help them persuade people on policy issues. In 2020 they opposed a constitutional amendment to install a progressive income tax in Illinois, which voters rejected 53 to 47. Green also has a paper out, Using Persuasion to Win the Culture War, that lays out his approach. Green and Berg join me to discuss communications strategy on this week’s Overton Window podcast.

Using private companies to provide municipal water service is dangerous, claims progressive professor and author Robert Kuttner. “Privatized systems are typically less reliable, far more expensive, and prone to corrupt deal-making,” Kuttner writes in The American Prospect.