Michigan is spending more on roads. A lot more. The transportation budget has increased $1.8 billion since 2012, a 32% increase when adjusted for inflation. And yet road conditions have only gotten worse. A broad measure of road quality shows that 66% of roads used to be in good or fair condition in 2012 and 58% are at those levels today.
As of June 1, Consumers Energy has finalized the rollout of their new summer peak rate, which increases electricity rates by 50% during hours of expected peak electricity demand. With this new program, the utility takes another step away from providing reliable, affordable electricity toward an organizational ethic of offering an electricity service that leaves Michigan ratepayers exposed to the whims of weather.
With the state flush in new tax dollars, Michigan’s chief executive has called for a dramatic hike in preschool spending. But the budget request far exceeds the demand for these services.
On June 8, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed spending an extra $405 million over the next three years on the state’s Great Start Readiness Program, “to ensure 22,000 more children can enroll in early education.” The program is geared toward children in households with income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level, which is $66,250 for a family of four. Two-thirds of the 65,000 eligible four-year-olds attend state-subsidized preschool. How many of the rest have parents who want them in?
Senate Bill 393: Give tax break to businesses afflicted by virus lockdowns: 19 to 16 in the Senate
To authorize tax relief for a business that was forced to close for at least six weeks due to an executive or emergency order that cost the business to lose 25% of its gross receipts for the year. The bill would authorize a business income tax credit equal to the business' property tax liability for the year. Businesses that rent would get a comparable credit based on lease costs. This applies to restaurants, taverns, hotels and motels, health clubs, entertainment facilities and other such “public facing” enterprises.
Many questions remain after an investigation by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff and the Mackinac Center concerning the total number of deaths from COVID-19 at nursing homes. A hearing on June 3 before the Michigan House of Representatives Oversight Committee featured comments from the Mackinac Center and Elizabeth Hertel, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
A new bill would impose additional licensing requirements on people who install solar panels in Michigan. Solar installers have been operating for decades without any apparent problems. Given that, these new licensing mandates are a solution in search of a problem.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on May 15, 2021.
In recent weeks, federal officials have announced policies that are very likely to increase cigarette smuggling into the United States and bring other unintended consequences.
The Tobacco Tax Equity Act of 2021, introduced in Congress on April 22, would both raise federal excise taxes (FET) on each pack of cigarettes and adjust the tax each year for inflation to ensure automatic tax hikes. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has moved to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes, a popular type of smoke. Taken separately, either proposal would be problematic, but together they may lead to Prohibition-style lawlessness, without big gains for public health.
In 1891, Kansas became the first state to enact a prevailing wage mandate, which generally requires governments to pay a predetermined wage for work it contracts out, rather than use a negotiated or market-based pay rate. Dozens of other states followed suit, with the regulation especially popular during the 1930s. But not all states joined the crowd.
The Overton Window on K-12 education had been firmly set in place in the 1980s. Outside of some students in religious schools, elitist enclaves, and a handful of homeschool households, everyone went to assigned public district schools based on where they lived.
Senate Bill 458: Require governor notify legislature when traveling out of state: Passed 20 to 16 in the Senate
To require that when leaving the state and on return, the governor must notify the lieutenant governor, and require this person to notify legislative leaders in writing within 12 hours.
It is well known that COVID-19 is significantly more dangerous for older populations. Data from Michigan shows that about 83% of the deaths associated with the disease in 2020 were of people 65 or older. But how does the risk of dying from COVID-19 compare with other risks, especially for younger populations? Turns out that this risk is not different from others faced on a regular basis.
The state of Michigan and its local governments are awash in cash – buoyed by a strong economy and an influx of federal funds. Lawmakers are looking to appropriate this money and, unfortunately, many are exploring risky new government-run programs.
Government-owned broadband networks are near the top of the wish list for many cities, counties and schools. There is certainly a need for better high-speed internet in parts of the state. The good news is that the Michigan Legislature passed a bill last year that set some guidelines to ensure those areas are being helped, without resorting to unnecessary overspending or unfair practices. It’s Public Act 166 of 2020, which lays down rules for distributing federal funds meant for broadband deployment. It prohibits government-owned networks from receiving the funding and ensures broadband grants go to private providers expanding in unserved areas, rather than those which already have companies in operation.
In the three decades of the modern school choice movement, 2021 has no rival. This Year of Educational Choice has broadened opportunities for students and families more than any other. But these opportunities have not penetrated everywhere. Without a bold strategy, Michigan is one place where students and families will be left in the dust.
House Bill 4448: Prohibit limiting government open records disclosures during emergency: Passed 21 to 15 in the Senate
To establish that an executive order, proclamation, or directive issued under the law that authorizes the governor to declare an emergency may not lengthen the required government agency response times or otherwise limit the scope of a public body's duties to provide records requested under the state Freedom of Information Act. Such an order was imposed in April 2020 and rescinded that June.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ditched her short-lived and ill-conceived “Vacc to Normal” plan and announced expedited changes to the state orders regulating public interactions. Lost in this good news, though, is a policy the governor did not change and remains in effect until at least July 1: the mandatory, weekly testing of healthy teenagers who play youth sports.
Two Michigan House and Senate committees have endorsed legislation that would prevent local governments from banning short-term rentals, and it awaits approval by the full chambers of the Legislature. Though local governments could not ban the rentals under the proposed law, they could still regulate them under noise and other ordinances, similar to how they regulate long-term rentals and single-family homes.
March and April saw two news events involving Michigan’s now-defunct prevailing wage law. The first involved legislation introduced March 25 that would reinstate the costly wage mandate on government contracts in the Great Lake State. The second involved a court decision not to retry a former state representative who had been charged with attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe in exchange for voting against a bill to repeal the law. Interestingly, both stories cross paths with an Indiana-specific paper the Mackinac Center has repeatedly criticized.
For three years, the cities of Farmington and Farmington Hills have explored the idea of a joint government-owned broadband service. This is despite the fact that the residents of these cities are blanketed with high-speed internet options from private providers, and despite a recent study estimating the cost of doing so will exceed $100 million and be a “fairly risky” investment for these cities to operate.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in The Hill on May 8, 2021.
It may be hard to believe, but there is a policy reform that unites a wide range of people, including conservatives, liberals and libertarians. Business groups and think tanks on the left agree with it, as do President Biden and former President Trump.
Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Hill on April 24, 2021.
President Biden released his plan to fix American infrastructure by spending trillions. The federal government has an important role to play in infrastructure, but it shouldn’t be the piggy bank for every state and local project.
Both politicians and public administrators seem to think they can change the direction of the economy by handing out money to a handful of businesses: There is a competition for jobs and they’re going to win it. A look at the scope of what is necessary to accomplish what they want done, however, ought to get them to reconsider whether business handouts can drive economic growth.
To many of the people living near the failed Edenville and Sanford dams, it seems like last year’s flood was only yesterday and, at the same time, almost a lifetime ago. On the evening of May 18, residents began receiving emergency text messages, warning that runoff from several days of extreme rain was threatening the stability of the Edenville Dam.
Senate Joint Resolution G: Ban banning state employees from communicating with a legislator: Passed 35 to 0 in the Senate
To place before voters in the next general election a constitutional amendment establishing that a state department or agency may not take disciplinary action against an employee because the employee communicates with a member of the legislature or a member's staff. The proposal would also ban restricting a nonpartisan employee of the legislature from communicating with a lawmaker or their staff. This requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate to go on the ballot.