When governors shut down their states’ economies in March 2020, a number of citizens started to ask where they got the power to do that. Governors’ seemingly endless authority to issue arbitrary orders prompted legislators in some states to alter the authority they’d given governors in emergencies. Daniel Dew, legal policy director of the Pacific Legal Foundation, and Mackinac Center director of research Michael Van Beek, who did a deep dive on the history of Michigan’s emergency authorization laws, join me to discuss these efforts on this week’s Overton Window podcast.

The leak to Politico of the United States Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade upon official release, is a dangerous departure from the centuries-held practice of allowing our nation’s highest Court to deliberate and interpret our constitutional freedoms without fear of incurring political coercion, retribution or violence.

Unnamed private companies are getting a chance to rewrite state law in order to get hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

The state legislature created a slate of new programs last December to give an unnamed company taxpayer support, putting $1 billion into a fund for administrators to negotiate. The company was also unnamable because lawmakers signed nondisclosure agreements in order to be briefed about the details.

The boards of a handful of Michigan counties have taken it upon themselves to weigh in on the state’s auto insurance laws. Several others, such as Midland County, are considering joining them. These counties all agree: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature must undo some of the long-awaited reforms they agreed to in 2019, reforms that are saving Michigan drivers hundreds of dollars per year.

May 11 update: After this post was published, a reader commented that the total income figures did not reflect the $4,900 personal exemption that all Michigan personal income tax filers are allowed to deduct on their annual returns. We have updated the spreadsheet to re-label “total income” as “gross income” with the pre-exemption amounts, added a “net income” column that shows the post-exemption amounts, and recalculated the tax capture columns based on net income.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s sudden embrace of the Palisades Nuclear Plant is both bittersweet and long overdue.

Whitmer asked U.S. taxpayers for more money Wednesday to maintain the nuclear generating station on Lake Michigan, which is slated to close May 31.

It should be hard for state lawmakers to cut taxes. Unlike the U.S. Congress, they have to balance the state budget each year, which means any dollar in tax cuts reduces spending or the growth of the state budget. The beneficiaries of the spending have a strong incentive to keep it going, while the beneficiaries of tax cuts tend to gain only a little from tax cuts. It’s a classic problem of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. Yet, more than a dozen states have cut taxes in the past year. Mississippi is the most recent state, and I spoke with Russ Latino, president of Empower Mississippi about it for the Overton Window podcast.

Former State Rep. Jon Hoadley was rejected by the Michigan Senate for his appointment to the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees. I have no idea whether Hoadley was a good selection for the school’s board. I don’t know what the people who voted against his appointment thought about him, either. The controversy, however, demonstrates that Michigan’s state universities would be better off as independent nonprofit schools.

The $208 each Michigan household would have saved from a tax rate reduction was too much for Gov. Whitmer, who vetoed the cut, calling it “unsustainable.” But based on the budget the governor proposed, a better explanation is that she prefers to spend more money than to let people keep more of what they earn.

Michigan parents may soon get some of the same help Ohio parents are now receiving to cover for extra education expenses.

Ohio’s Afterschool Child Enrichment or ACE account program opened to parents Monday, the Buckeye Institute reports. Eligible families – including those earning up to about $83,000 a year for a family of four – can receive $500 to cover the costs of “tutoring, curricula, day camp fees, language and music classes, and field trips.” Recipients are free to decide which services and providers they will enlist to help their child catch up from pandemic-related challenges.

This article originally appeared in Bridge Michigan March 23 2022.

Families should have opportunities to get more information from schools that can help them provide a motivating and effective education.

Yet today parents in different parts of the state are hampered in their efforts to see what their children are taught. Forest Hills Public Schools in west Michigan sent a $400,000 bill to parents who formally sought documents that show how racial issues are being presented in the classroom. More recently, a Rochester mom filed suit with help from the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation after her district stonewalled requests to view the list of materials used in a particular high school course and the associated teacher training.

This article originally appeared in The Hill March 23, 2022.

How devastating would it be for a state to lose all the energy from its vast wind-power apparatus in the middle of a global energy crisis? Michigan is about to find out.

The state soon will lose at least 5.8 million annual megawatt hours of carbon dioxide-free energy production. That’s an amount equal to all the energy produced by the wind industry that Michigan has built up over the past 13 years, at a cost of more than $5 billion.

Elected officials in Washington, DC dragged seven oil and gas executives into hearings last week, demanding they defend themselves against congressional claims that the industry is “gouging [Americans] at the gas station.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee held the hearing to repeat price gouging charges that date back at least to the 1974 oil embargo and that have never held up to scrutiny. Elected officials, apparently eager to deflect attention from the impacts of their own policies or to garner a helpful pre-election headline, point fingers in every direction except their own.

This article originally appeared in The Hill March 5, 2022. 

Winning presidential candidates campaign to balance the federal budget and pay down debt. Yet the deficit continues to increase, and there has been a proliferation of debt over the past 20 years. Total federal government spending increased from $2.8 trillion to $7.2 trillion from 2000 to 2021, when adjusting for inflation, or from 18 percent of economic production to 33 percent. Federal debt increased from $8.9 trillion to $30.2 trillion. This happened despite campaign pledges from the winning candidates to avoid spending and debt.

This article by Megan Chalfant and F. Vincent Vernuccio originally appeared on the Workers For Opportunity site April 7.

When Indiana teachers review their union membership form this fall, they’ll see something new.

In legible, 14-point bold text will be these words: The State of Indiana wishes to make you aware that you have a First Amendment right…to refrain from joining and paying dues to a union.

This article originally appeared in The Detroit News March 23.

Two years ago, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer invoked emergency powers and launched a war against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. She singlehandedly commanded the state’s response — a historically unprecedented exercise of executive power. This was necessary to defeat the disease, we were told. But right now, victory seems illusive.

It used to be that most everyone went to public schools and the only political debate about this was how much more to give the schools next year. That started to change in the 1990s and gained momentum into this century. Last year, 19 states passed reforms to allow more charter schools, to fund students rather than institutions, and to help give parents more options on how they can educate their children.

This article originally appeared in The Hill March 12 2022.

President Biden repeatedly has promised to be “the most pro-union president in American history.” But there’s one key group of people standing in his way: The tens of millions of workers who want nothing to do with union membership.

During the early months of the pandemic, many worried that lost revenues from restrictive economic policies would break public school budgets. But it turns out the worst fears for Michigan K-12 finances were misplaced.

In April 2020, the Mackinac Center responded to projected shortfalls with suggested budget items to cut, including areas of the school aid budget less focused on classrooms and student needs. Local and state officials braced themselves for a disruption to the years-long trend of rising per-pupil revenues in Michigan’s K-12 system, a disruption that never came.

Editor's Note: A shortened version of this piece first appeared in the Traverse City Record Eagle on April 6, 2022. 

Some state lawmakers are again playing with the notion of Michigan taxpayers bankrolling film production here. The last time officials tried to bring movie magic to Michigan, it cost taxpayers a staggering $500 million and produced almost nothing.

When Gov. Whitmer vetoed a tax cut that would have reduced the state’s income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9%, she claimed that the state could not afford to reduce taxes. The governor said that the state would have lost $2.5 billion a year from the tax cut, along with the additional child tax credit and boosted senior exemptions. Not taking that $2.5 billion from Michigan taxpayers would “blow a recurring, multi-billion-dollar hole in basic state government functions from public safety to potholes,” Whitmer said.

It's been more than a month since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and gas prices are still well above $4 per gallon.

International instability plays a role in the most recent price spikes, but that does not erase the fact that the sustained increase in domestic energy prices began with President Biden’s election and can be linked to his domestic energy policies. The administration continues to point the finger elsewhere, claiming to have encouraged the oil and gas industry to rapidly increase production. But if Biden really wants to reduce prices for consumers, he could do two relatively simple things.

Congress passed massive stimulus spending last March to help states that were expected to suffer revenue losses due to the pandemic. But because state tax revenues remained higher than expected, Michigan lawmakers were left figuring out how to spend all that money coming from Washington.

Some medical providers in Michigan are pushing to eliminate the cost controls put in place by the bipartisan auto insurance reforms from 2019. These were a critical element of the reform, and reversing them would jeopardize the savings millions of Michigan drivers are just now beginning to realize.

Like many public policy advocates, the people at the Georgia Center for Opportunity research and write about public policy. What makes them different is that they try to bridge the gap between people working at the community level and the people working on state policy. I spoke with their president and CEO Randy Hicks about this for the Overton Window podcast.