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For decades, state taxpayers have supported the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which distributes select tax incentives, credits and subsidies to chosen businesses and industries. The MEDC has a dreadful track record. It has approved money for a convicted felon, given hundreds of millions for battery companies and green energy projects that went bust, and a miniscule number of companies chosen to receive money met their job projections.

The Michigan Legislature has approved a budget that spends more money on roads (among other areas) without raising taxes. That is good news. In addition, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she won’t veto any department budgets and shutdown state government. More good news.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on September 6, 2019. 

This year’s class of Michigan third-graders heads back to school as the state’s first to face real consequences if they have not learned how to read. Some schools may find the change uncomfortable. But embracing the extra pressure, along with the added tools to help educators succeed, can provide a small, sure step toward needed improvements.

Some lawmakers intend to extend a scheduled sunset on a state program of corporate fiscal favors that proponents presumptuously call “Good Jobs for Michigan.” That is a misnomer. It should instead be called “MEGA 2: Subsidies for Large Conglomerates.” That’s because the program is modeled on the state’s failed Michigan Economic Growth Authority, and supporters cannot prove that ‘good jobs’ wouldn’t have been created without the program.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on September 21, 2019.

In midst of union scandals, failed organizing attempts and a recent dues hike, the UAW decided to strike against GM, leaving what could have been a reasonable start to negotiations on the table. Scores of articles have been written about the strike, several of which allege it is helping the UAW distract from its real problems.

Legislators approved budgets this week for the upcoming fiscal year, just ahead of the new fiscal year that starts in October.

The budget continues to grow even without the governor’s recommended tax increases. Michigan’s state budget would increase from $57.3 billion in the current fiscal year to $58.8 billion in the upcoming fiscal year if the Legislature’s approved budgets are signed into law. The amount of money the state collects from taxes and fees increases from $34.0 billion to $35.1 billion.

Tensions are growing high in Lansing around the unresolved state budget. As the end of the fiscal year approaches, the more rhetoric separates itself from reality. The debate about K-12 spending levels is a prime example. The proposed increase in the Legislature’s newly adopted school aid budget is smaller than the governor’s, but that relatively small difference is rarely given proper perspective.

A pervasive theme, which has wound its way through the Democratic Party debates and primary campaign, was again highlighted in the Climate Town Hall held earlier this month. The 10 candidates who spoke at the event all warned that we face an existential climate threat. But their unsettling string of expansive and expensive policies to ostensibly stop global warming give new meaning to the old phrase, “The cure is worse than the disease.”

Most job creation happens without a press release. Job loss, too. Because of this, residents underappreciate the massive number of people who are losing jobs and finding others that occurs regularly in the economy.

This becomes a problem when it comes to state economic development strategies. Instead of policies which affect the majority of businesses, the state collects money from all taxpayers to hand out to a select few businesses. This buys state officials stories about how they’ve improved the state’s economic development, but the examples aren’t enough to deliver the broad-based economic growth that benefits everyone.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 29, 2019.

With economic growth in recent years, most states’ budgets have steadily grown. This has allowed them to increase the amount of money put into their pension systems and pay down debts that have developed. But an economic slowdown could stall all of this progress.

The United Auto Workers is on strike, shutting down plants across Michigan and elsewhere. In the decade since the union last called a strike, four states with a heavy UAW presence – Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky – have all become right-to-work states.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced that she intends to ban flavored vaping products in Michigan. Her argument is that these products are attractive to children and may get them started on a dangerous habit.

While that may be true, prohibiting flavored vaping products (with or without nicotine) would bring negative consequences that might offset any good she was trying to accomplish. There are better ways to prevent children (and adults) from starting a vaping or smoking habit than an outright ban.

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, introduced a bill to eliminate the state’s business subsidy deals signed between 1995 and 2012. These agreements are estimated to cost taxpayers $6.4 billion beyond what the companies have already collected. This program was unquestionably bad policy, and it is good that lawmakers want to stop the expense. But there is a question about whether they can put an end to these deals.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles featuring the perspectives of current and recent Michigan public school teachers’ experiences with school choice. See the first article here.

Michigan’s corporate handout programs are ineffective, unfair and expensive. Lawmakers should end them.

They are ineffective because they are just not up to the scale necessary to develop the economy. A massive churn of jobs goes on in the economy, and politicians don’t have much of a say about it. Over the last three months of 2018, Michigan added 212,000 jobs and lost 196,000 jobs — adding one job for every 18 jobs in existence, and losing one out of every 19 jobs.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on August 21, 2019.

This summer marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, which ruled that public employees have a constitutional right to quit their union and stop paying dues. This week is National Employee Freedom Week, a time to celebrate workers’ rights such as these. Yet in many states, governors, attorneys general and lawmakers are undermining public employees, making it harder for them to exercise their constitutional rights. That’s why, even a year after the monumental Janus decision, many public employees are still forced to fight for their freedom in the courts.

Senate Bill 23, Authorize prison for “porch pirates”: Passed 106 to 3 in the House

To make stealing or intercepting mail or packages left in or near a person’s mailbox a crime, with penalties of up to one year in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense, and for a second and subsequent offense, up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine. The Senate has since concurred with the House changes and sent the bill to the governor for approval.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 17, 2019.

Political polarization in the U.S. reportedly has attained levels comparable to just before the Civil War. Whether as a cause or an effect, standards of behavior in the public and political spheres also have plummeted. Calls to restore “civility” are a frequent response, but there’s a great deal of confusion on what this important concept actually entails. It’s easy to imagine it means something like, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Lobbying groups representing the American Music Therapy Association and its sister organization, the Certification Board for Music Therapists, have pushed for state licensing laws all across the nation. These new occupational licenses would force music therapists to obtain a degree from programs approved by the therapy association, force people to pay to take tests offered by the certification board and use regulations to lock out competition from those who want to practice.

Corporate handouts are ineffective, unfair and also transfer money from taxpayers to wealthy business owners. But they get also strong bipartisan support. They are also the subject of a scorecard the Mackinac Center compiles, which shows how state politicians vote on business subsidies and how much they have voted for. There have been no additions to the scorecard so far in the first eight months of the Whitmer administration. But there may be by year’s end as lawmakers consider extending one subsidy program before it expires.

The lobbyist for Michigan’s 15 public universities says taxpayers are to blame for tuition hikes, an insufficient number of poor kids attending college, a lack of a talented workforce and the state missing out on the Amazon headquarters. But there’s little evidence for this.

Laws that provide special tax incentives to promote farmland preservation already skew land use decisions. We shouldn’t obscure market signals even further by subsidizing people who build renewable energy facilities on that same land.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recently tweaked the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program to expand solar development in Michigan. The program, established by Public Act 116 of 1975, currently covers approximately one-third of the state’s 10 million acres of farmland. Through it, the state hands out special tax incentives and exemptions in ten-year blocks to landowners who enroll in the program and then commit to preserve their farmland for agricultural purposes.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 9, 2019.

Here they go again, attempting to take away the secret ballot in union elections.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles featuring the perspectives of current and recent Michigan public school teachers’ experiences with school choice.

Having worked in different kinds of public schools, one Michigan teacher has found a charter school advantage.

A Mackinac Center Legal Foundation lawsuit filed on behalf of attorney Lucille Taylor has received wide media attention.

Approximately 40,000 lawyers are forced by law to pay $315 every year to the State Bar of Michigan. The bar association uses the money, in part, to take stances on controversial political issues, such as the regulation of money in politics, the death penalty, spending on judicial campaigns, proposed criminal justice laws and more.