The right to own and use property has been one of the cornerstones of a successful and prosperous economy. Despite this, the courts have often been negligent to downright hostile to property owners who seek to enforce their rights against government intrusion. For that reason, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Knick v. Township of Scott, 588 US ___ (2019) may turn out to be a watershed moment. The issue in Knick is how the courts treat a “taking” of private property for public benefit. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution says: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” There are two parts to that. First, it’s clear that a government can take property for public use. This power is called eminent domain. It is widely accepted by courts and elected officials, and it makes it easier for governments to build roads, military bases and other facilities. But, second, the government must pay fair compensation for what it takes.

Michigan residents are not likely to be happy with whatever lawmakers decide to do on the roads. It’s tough to please voters on the issue.

There is a lot of pressure to hike taxes. The pressure comes not just from the governor, who wants to use her $2.5 billion tax hike to spend $1.9 billion on the roads and $600 million on other priorities, but from every other spending interest in the state. Schools, universities, local governments, business subsidy interests and other direct recipients of taxpayer funding rarely argue about the ineffectiveness of others’ spending, and they cheer for each other’s tax hikes.

Most Michigan school district and union officials would have you believe that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s K-12 budget proposal represents a dramatic break from recent history. She calls for a sizeable increase in spending, one that is similar to what the state has been adding in recent years. It is also less of an increase than what lawmakers added two years ago.

Democrats in Congress recently unveiled legislation that is a union wish list: it limits the freedoms of workers and gives more power to labor unions, who are often some of the biggest supporters of Democratic candidates. It’s called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019, or PRO Act.

It is possible to spend more money on the roads without raising taxes in Michigan. That’s not just a Mackinac Center recommendation: Both chambers of the Michigan Legislature passed budgets that found more transportation money without raising tax rates. And both do so, in part, by decreasing support for corporate welfare.

Families who have faced obstacles in their efforts to give their children with special-needs the best shot at academic and life success can take heart from a pair of recent court rulings that should affect education in this state.

In 2018 the U.S. Department of Education handed Michigan the lowest rating among the 50 states for the way it delivered special education services. The rating, which is determined heavily by measurable outcomes for students, came about the same time federal courts were raising the expectations for what schools must do under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

A recent Detroit Free Press headline reported on the rapid decline of private education in Michigan: "200 private schools have closed in Michigan in the last decade." This isn’t wrong, but it ignores the emergence of new schools that need to be considered to get a full picture of the state of private schooling in Michigan.

It’s hard to underestimate how much motor vehicle manufacturing formed Michigan’s economy and how ingrained it is in the state culture. But its economic importance has diminished, and it’s easy to not appreciate the extent to which the state has diversified.

State taxpayers are putting more money into the roads than ever before. In inflation-adjusted terms, the $3.6 billion being spent this year is the most in history, or at least since 1940 — as far back as state records allow for making comparisons.

In today’s political climate, polarization is becoming the norm, and divisive debates have caused many people to forget the underlying issues. In this divided world, the nonprofit grassroots organization known as Policy Circle offers a way for women to discuss crucial topics without the influence of party politics.

The best way to measure the usefulness of energy sources is not by the number of jobs they create, but by the benefits they provide. Getting the biggest gain for the least resources should always be the goal, meaning we should measure energy by its output, not the size of its payroll. Current green energy literature shows us why.

Michigan’s State Board of Education recently voted to reject federal funding from a grant program aimed at helping low-income students through public charter schools.

On May 14, four of six Democratic members on the State Board of Education put a halt to $47 million in federal funds designed to help public charter schools open and grow. Michigan secured the five-year funding award with the highest-scoring application of any state, but now that money might be off-limits.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on May 5, 2019. 

When it comes to the educational choices families make, the nation’s largest teachers union can’t get its facts straight. Mythology propagated by the National Education Association (NEA), along with others, needs to be set straight.

A recent piece from columnist Mitch Albom excoriates the recent changes to Michigan’s auto insurance laws. He writes that the changes are “ugly” and “shameful”; the promised savings are only a “handful of beans” and a “shell game”; and the new law is “ignoring the most vulnerable” and will lead to a “lousy future” where “people will die.” Albom tries to tell readers that this is not hyperbole … but it is. He can only arrive at these absurd conclusions by ignoring all the costs and negative ramifications of Michigan’s broken auto insurance system.

The head of Michigan’s Department of Transportation says the state can increase road spending by more than 50 percent without causing increases in the cost of materials and labor. But that’s unlikely, and state lawmakers should keep these costs in mind as they evaluate transportation spending.

Infrastructure tends to be paid by the people that use it. Water and sewer bills pay for water and sewer treatment and pipes. Electric bills pay for power plants, transmission and distribution of electricity. Phone user charges pay for telephone poles and cell towers.

Note: Today's report includes votes from the unusual House and Senate sessions held the previous Friday, which occurred too late for last week's report, and included passage of landmark auto insurance reform. There were no votes to report this week, which was dominated by legislators' attendance at an annual Detroit Chamber of Commerce event on Mackinac Island. 

Michigan lawmakers recently punted changes in educator evaluations to next year, with hopes that the state's education officials can iron out important details in the meantime. A new analysis shines a light on the challenges of adopting a truly effective policy.

Some Michigan legislators have introduced bills to try to get county road commissions to pay down their pension debt and prefund their retiree health insurance benefits. The bills would create a matching grant program and allow the commissions to levy property taxes to pay for employee benefits. Lawmakers shouldn’t have to encourage local road commissioners to do the right thing, however.

On May 21, the state approved a large set of corporate handouts for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which has said it would spend money on its manufacturing facilities in Michigan, creating, among other things, a new assembly plant. Such deals have been and remain unfair and unnecessary to Michigan’s well-being. The state should eliminate its corporate incentive programs in favor of a “fair field and no favors” approach to economic development.

Lansing politicians are trying to work out a deal on auto insurance reforms. No one has to convince lawmakers of this need — they hear it regularly from their constituents. While a lot of what’s being proposed is good policy and will provide relief for drivers — PIP choice, medical fee schedules, more intense anti-fraud efforts and greater transparency — one related issue is more problematic: restricting how insurers can price out the premiums they sell.

Editor's Note: This article was updated with corrections on October 23, 2019. 

Each year the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Tax Foundation of Washington, D.C. work in concert to highlight key impacts of state cigarette excise taxes on tax evasion and avoidance (what we call “smuggling”).