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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is currently reviewing the state business subsidy program known as the Texas Enterprise Fund, and he wants money back from companies that don’t create as many jobs as promised. But an article on his review includes an interesting comment. “The enterprise fund is widely considered the largest deal-closing incentive fund in the country, [emphasis added] meaning it’s designed to provide the final carrot that swings a decision on a corporate relocation or expansion.”

Senate Bill 2, Require conviction for seized property ownership forfeiture: Passed 36 to 2 in the Senate

In her recent State of the State address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rightly pointed out that Michigan needs to spend more money on roads.

In her first State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made no mention of the state’s criminal justice system. With millions of Michiganders potentially affected by the system, there’s much to be said about it, and why criminal justice reform should be high on the list of state priorities.

There have been bills introduced to repeal the state’s so-called pension tax ever since it was first enacted in 2011. Revisiting and possible repealing it is viewed as a potential area of bipartisan agreement. It’s unsurprising since a lot of people were affected by the tax.

Union membership continued its long-term downward trend — declining again in 2018. At the same time, the number of jobs across the nation increased as well as household income.

This information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor in its annual report. Union members declined by 0.2 percentage points — from 10.7 percent of the workforce to 10.5 percent. Other data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the U.S. has continued to gain jobs, adding 2.4 million in 2018 and with average weekly earnings up 3.0 percent — well above the rate of inflation.

The latest Global Think Tank Report has been released and it ranks the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as the 85th best policy institute in the United States, putting it among the top 5 percent in the nation.

For decades, Michigan lawmakers have voted in a bipartisan manner to give taxpayer dollars to select corporations. The nature and scope of these programs have changed, but one consistent theme remains: they rarely create the jobs politicians promise they will.

The Michigan Municipal League regularly makes the case that the state government should transfer more money to municipal governments. But MML Communications Director Matt Bach overstated one point when he said, “Across the country, Michigan ranks 50th — DEAD LAST — in investing in its communities since 2002.”

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on January 29, 2019.

Last June the Supreme Court overturned years of legal precedent and effectively granted states greater taxing powers over transactions that involve out-of-state retailers. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case, known as South Dakota v. Wayfair, makes it easier for Michigan’s Treasury to raise revenue — an estimated $200 million-plus per year, according to published estimates. Yet taking advantage of this “opportunity” means pulling more taxes from the wallets of Michigan taxpayers while imposing job-killing compliance burdens on small and medium-sized businesses that sell products online.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 18, 2019.

It’s said that the punishment ought to fit the crime, but that adage is coming undone now that having a criminal record has become a lifelong sentence for millions of Americans. One reason: Technology has made it easier than ever to access public records. As a result, individuals whose crimes were minor, are decades old, or both, nevertheless face a stigma that could harm their employment and education prospects until they die. This is bad for public safety and for the workforce, but a simple policy change could correct the problem.

Get used to it.

Last night, Gov. Whitmer and Consumers Energy used the state’s emergency warning system to request that Michigan residents curtail their use of natural gas. The warning paired with DTE’s request that its customers voluntarily reduce their electric use during this period of extreme cold. Winter cold has hit the nation with a vengeance, reminding us of the value of reliable, affordable fossil fuels, as well as the dangers of the green special interest demands that we jettison these fuels from our energy options.

The new year has ushered in fresh opportunities to solve the pressing issues of our times. Criminal justice reform is no exception, especially given the increased attention it has received lately from organizations across the political spectrum.

The Office of the Auditor General today released its audit on the state’s Michigan Business Development Program, a corporate subsidy initiative of the Snyder administration. The audit found that the program gave out money for what might be phantom jobs and overstated its economic impacts. The MBDP should be closed completely, and its resources redirected to some higher priority, such as road infrastructure.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 11, 2019. 

On Dec. 6, the EPA proposed revising a 2015 Obama administration regulation that effectively outlawed construction of coal-fired power plants in the United States. In its new form, the rule would help extract the federal government from its role of selecting winners and losers in electricity generation. But it will not, as some groups fear, guarantee that new coal plants will be built.

Last week, The Guardian, a United Kingdom-based news organization, published an article that cherry-picked language from a 2015 U.S. government report that referenced our cigarette smuggling research.

A new education funding report from Michigan State University made a splash in media outlets last week. Multiple headlines and stories declared the state in a freefall of dollars dedicated to Michigan's public schools. The real story is far less dramatic and devastating. In fact, Michigan ranks near the middle nationally in per-pupil funding.

Electric Vehicles are hip and happening. Media reports gush over auto manufacturer plans to transition their fleets to EV production in an alleged response to growing grassroots and public demand. When asked, hybrid and battery electric vehicle advocates and owners proudly state their love for their vehicles. But when you dig into the details, you find more to the story than just growing consumer demand.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 3, 2019.

In many places, education reform has migrated from the front pages to inside space. The momentum to create far-reaching initiatives has exhausted citizens and policymakers alike. But there’s still a need for a system that provides parents and educators with clear, useful signals of school quality.

At the end of 2018, Michigan lawmakers eliminated the state’s painter license, making Michigan join the majority of states that do not require painters to have a state license to work.

The license mandated classroom hours, passing an exam and spending hundreds of dollars. There is no evidence that this made people better painters or served to protect the public in a substantial way. Instead, it amounted to simply putting obstacles in the path of people trying to work. It also prevented virtually anyone with a criminal record from ever being licensed since it required licensees to possess “good moral character,” which, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. The repeal bill officially goes into effect on March 28, 2019.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is set to expire this year. The agency administers the state’s business subsidy programs and was created in 1999 by an agreement that expires after 20 years. The new Whitmer administration gets to decide what it wants to do with the functions the MEDC provides. Most likely the duties will be transferred to another arm of state government, but the state’s business subsidy regimen deserves to go away without replacement.

The state budget is about priorities. There are constant demands for more spending but a limited number of dollars collected by state taxes. When something is imperative, like a campaign promise to fix the roads, lawmakers have to determine what other areas of the state budget have lower priority.

State of the System

Get Used to It