The first food delivery services began in the 1700s. Pizza delivery took off in the 1960s and has been a staple of the industry ever since. Teenagers have done it for decades. There has largely been limited, or zero, government regulation of these services across the United States. But a proposed bill in Michigan would change that by requiring people who deliver food to get a certification.
The Overton Window for cigarette policy is narrow. Cigarettes are highly regulated and highly taxed. To the extent that there is a policy debate, it tends center around whether to ban menthol cigarettes and whether to raise taxes. Yet the popularity of new nicotine products like e-cigarettes has changed the policy debate, and to talk about this, I spoke with Michelle Minton, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
When state lawmakers approved $1 billion in new selective business subsidies, they didn’t specify what companies would need to do to receive payments. What administrators came up with may not be what legislators intended.
Some programs give companies money based on the wages they pay for new jobs. Others give out money based on how much the companies spend on buildings and equipment. And some offer tax credits to companies when they spend money on favored activities like research and development. For this latest program, policymakers did not specify how recipients would qualify for cash. Instead, they let administrators fill in the details.
Flint schools are open at last. The heavily funded but troubled Flint Community Schools reopened classrooms Monday, becoming one of the state’s last holdouts to return to in-person instruction.
The district is flush with cash, but its commitment to keeping classes open has been weak. More than 90% of Flint students come from low-income families. While remote instruction typically lowers achievement for all, economically disadvantaged students stand at even greater risk of losing ground.
State lawmakers in December 2021 approved a new $1 billion corporate handout program called SOAR, or Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve. General Motors was quickly approved by the state’s “jobs” fund to receive the bulk of the fund’s first appropriation. All that’s left now to complete the deal is a final sign-off of the state’s appropriations committees. The members should reject this deal.
While Michigan employs 205,200 fewer people than in February 2020, a 4.6% decrease, the state government’s budget continues to grow.
To keep the government from spending more and further crowding out the productive private sector, the Mackinac Center has created the Sustainable Michigan Budget. This plan would set a maximum limit on what lawmakers can spend, based on changes in population and inflation. The next state budget would be allowed to grow by 3.15% under this formula, limiting spending of revenue from state taxes and fees to $39.1 billion.
The Michigan Senate Finance committee passed a bill to the full senate that would lower the income tax rate, the corporate income tax rate, and to give families a $500 tax credit for each of their dependent children. It’s good to see that lawmakers are interested in lowering taxes. It improves state competitiveness and creates jobs. It’s also a good time to consider tax cuts, since strong revenue growth ensures that the state can afford to reduce tax rates.
Michigan lawmakers approved $1 billion worth of subsidies in December, driven by requests from unnamed companies for special treatment. More handouts to corporations are being considered. What is remarkable about the debate around the spending is how little of it occurred. Supporters refused even to acknowledge criticisms.
Senate Bill 642: End competitive bidding on state engineering contracts: Passed 37 to 0 in the Senate
To no longer seek competitive bids for state architectural, engineering or land surveying service contracts, and instead let officials assess and rank vendors according to specified (and potentially subjective) criteria, and then try to negotiate a “fair and reasonable” contract with the “highest ranking” firm. The bill does not define “fair and reasonable,” and in the absence of competitive bidding it is not clear how a state department could know that amount. If officials don’t get the price they want they would repeat the process with the next firm on their list.
One of the long-standing strategies to get long-term political change is through youth engagement, especially on college campuses. Jarrett Skorup spoke with Tori Aultman for the Overton Window podcast about her experience launching a school debate and activism club at her university.
“Free enterprise, personal responsibility, free markets, limited government, rule of law and, of course, freedom are fundamental tenets to democracy and human progress,” Northwood University President Kent MacDonald wrote in a recent post to the university’s website. These tenets form what MacDonald calls the “Northwood Idea,” and for 60 years they “have guided Northwood in our belief that liberty is the greatest determinant of one’s success in life and of prosperity in the communities where we live.”
Three state universities in Michigan have eliminated in-state tuition rates. Some lawmakers may be concerned that residents no longer get special treatment, but this is a good move for the schools and for the state.
Eastern Michigan University began charging the same tuition for residents and nonresidents for the 2016-17 year. Ferris State University and Lake Superior State University made the move in 2018-19.
The 12th and latest edition of National School Choice Week (January 23-29) arrives in Michigan at a time when demand for education options has reached an all-time high. Out of appreciation for the benefits many students and families already enjoy, state officials should work to further expand access to needed options.
Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Detroit News on Jan. 17, 2022.
Last week, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel aired her grievances with an auditor general’s review of how her department tracked COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. The auditor general released the anticipated report Monday, and the results reveal that the state failed to accurately track and report these deaths.
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a blog that was first published one year ago today.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a $5.6 billion pandemic recovery plan for Michigan 12 months ago, and she included in her proposal a call for more corporate handouts. Chief among her ideas is renewing the so-called Good Jobs for Michigan program. Legislation to do just that — but under a new name — is up before a state House committee in Lansing at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Ford Motor Co. caused Lansing politicians and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation some embarrassment and consternation last fall when it chose two southern states for its new production of electric vehicles and battery components.
Lansing’s political class responded to the announcement by quietly concocting a subsidy program known as “SOAR,” or “Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve,” and then jamming it through the full legislature last December. It is a $1 billion taxpayer fund that will give subsidies to a few corporations.
Michigan gives out hundreds of millions of dollars to a handful of private companies each year. Yet corporate-welfare bureaucrats claim residents shouldn’t and can’t be told how much taxpayer money each company receives. This violates the governmental spending transparency that Michiganders demand from their government. The Michigan Constitution mandates that “financial records” be disclosed and therefore prohibits this secrecy. The Michigan Supreme Court should require that all corporate welfare expenditures be made available to the public.
The Overton Window podcast has covered a lot of tactics that can help people change policy. Compelling and clever messages can build momentum on an issue. Litigation cannot be ignored. People can make their case directly to lawmakers. But there is no substitute for knowing how a policy works, and for the Overton Window podcast, I spoke with Byron Schlomach. He has decades of experience in research and writing on policy for free-market think tanks in Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma.
The Michigan Legislature met on the second Wednesday of the new year, as prescribed by the Michigan Constitution. No roll call votes were held in the House or Senate, so this report describes some bills of general interest from 2021 that are still pending.
The recent Bridge Michigan headline was hardly startling: “Michigan students forced online by COVID learned less than those in schools.” But given that the headline appeared during a new wave of closed classrooms in some of the state’s more populated areas, it unleashed a greater sense of urgency.
As prescribed by the Michigan Constitution, the Legislature will begin the second year of the 101st Legislature on the second Wednesday of the new year, which is Jan. 12. This report describes some bills of general interest that were introduced in its first year.
These are the times that try the priorities of Michigan’s public schools. As the calendar turned to 2022, some of Michigan’s largest school districts announced a full return to remote instruction. Many parents are understandably beside themselves, even as many teachers would like to do more to help.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on December 21, 2021.
The Michigan Legislature has fast-tracked a new corporate subsidy fund that exceeds $1 billion in value. It is designed to subsidize large, for-profit projects, several of which may involve deals for electric vehicle producers.
Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Hill on December 18, 2021.
A lot of ink has been spilled describing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), adopted in March. It is designed to help the country recover from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including economic ones. A case can be made that the U.S. economy would have recovered on its own and that this newest federal spending blowout was unnecessary.
On Dec. 15, Enbridge Energy requested to have a 2019 lawsuit, brought by the state of Michigan against the company’s Line 5 pipeline, moved from state courts to the federal court that is presiding over another Line 5 case. Upon hearing of the company’s request to combine the cases before the same federal judge, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel fumed that the company’s move was an “outrageous maneuver.” She characterized the request as a “flagrant attempt to undermine” a federal rule that typically limits this type of request to within 30 days of a case’s initial filing. The energy company argues that a recent judicial ruling effectively reset the 30-day provision.