Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently said she would not be bullied into making decisions about when to reopen gyms, bowling alleys, ice rinks, theaters and other places where people gather. The governor continues to insist, as she has since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, that her decisions are based on science and data. But a look back at which businesses the governor has allowed to reopen and when suggests that data and evidence had little to do with it.

It turns out large school districts can keep their doors open this fall without kowtowing to union demands. Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti deserves praise for holding his ground to forge an agreement that respects the choices of parents and teachers.

The Mackinac Center recently released a rigorous study of state economic development programs. It uses two unique datasets to measure employment impacts at organizations incentivized by the state going back to the 1980s. We found significant and meaningful employment impacts in 4 of 9 incentive categories, the largest of which involved programs for the state’s 21st Century Jobs Fund.

Editor's Note: This article first ran in The Hill on August 8, 2020.

Would anyone have guessed that COVID-19 would bring greater liberty to drinkers? During the pandemic, state lawmakers across the country are saying “cheers” to alcohol reform and loosening restrictions on how and where adults acquire and consume their favorite alcoholic beverages.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on July 27, 2020.

In the national debate on police reform, many proposals to date have focused on additional training for law enforcement officers and bans on particular restraint techniques and weapons, such as rubber bullets and tear gas.

The Mackinac Center has recently released a comprehensive study of state economic development incentives that found that corporate handouts did create employment at some recipient firms but at a huge cost of incentive offered per job created per year.

Since 2008, the Mackinac Center and others have pushed for online financial transparency when it comes to public schools, and there have been many victories over the years in this effort. But one important victory has yet to be achieved.

In 2008, Michigan lawmakers expanded the financial transparency requirements of schools. One key provision of state law requires districts to publicly disclose the salaries and benefits of their superintendents and other employees making more than $100,000.

State analysts now expect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a smaller effect on state revenue than previously estimated. The state now expects to collect 97% of what it collected last year. And it also expects to receive 93% of that amount in the year after.

Michigan law typically allows the bulk of state funding to follow students to whichever public school district they choose. This encourages competition, and research shows parents are likely to choose a better school for their kids.

But that changed this year. In response to the disruption COVID-19 has caused, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature recently enacted a law that bases 75% of school funding on how many students a district had last year and only 25% based on student counts this year.

Michigan parents are wrestling with trying to remain financially solvent and deal with schooling options for their children in the midst of restrictions and uncertainty due to COVID-19. Many families are opting for in-person instruction, but some are experimenting with new, creative alternatives. Other parents, unfortunately, lack options and are being forced into online programs they do not believe serve their children well.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as California has discovered thanks to a recent court decision. On Aug. 10, the California Superior Court rejected an attempt by Uber and Lyft to stay the effects of a law that would have classified their drivers as employees. This, in turn, prompted both Uber and Lyft to prepare to shut down their California operations. Although a later appeal resulted in a temporary stay, the threat of a shutdown continues.

At the end of our previous post, we had just reached the halfway point of 50 reasons for optimism about the well-being of our environment and the many ways humanity is working to improve it. More and more, it is becoming clear that human ingenuity and innovation is the primary reason we can enjoy cleaner air and water, growing wildlife populations, more abundant and nutritious food, more trees, and a host of other good environmental news.

The Mackinac Center’s new study, “Economic Development? State Handouts and Jobs: A New Look at the Evidence in Michigan” examined thousands of incentive deals offered to state enterprises and tracked the employment at them over time. As part of our examination, we studied the performance of the state’s Michigan Business Development Program from two different directions. Neither yielded evidence that the program was worth keeping.

A salient feature of the “Return to Learn” plan is to punish public schools that innovate, grow and demonstrate success. This kills incentives for schools to improve and leaves families with fewer good options. This backward funding policy, touted as a needed response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will trap many students in ineffective distance learning programs.

State Budget Director Chris Kolb recently argued that the federal government should give the state of Michigan billions because there is nowhere left to cut in Michigan’s budget. “I have reviewed every dollar in the state budget, but the fact of the matter is there’s simply no way to cut the budget in fiscal year 2021 without impacting essential services at a time when our residents need them the most,” he writes in The Detroit News.

Editor's Note: This piece first appeared in The Detroit News on August 12, 2020. 

Michigan’s lawmakers decided that schools are more important than schooling when they announced that they’ve agreed on a school funding plan for next year. Many students and taxpayers are getting a raw deal.

Public schooling is the most expensive service provided by Michigan’s state and local governments. It’s a big task to educate the 1.6 million school-age children and young adults in the state, 90% of whom attend a tax-funded district or charter school. Of the $42 billion in state and local taxes collected in Michigan, more than 40% goes to K-12 education.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers are considering whether to extend the $600 weekly unemployment insurance bonus payments Congress established earlier this year. However, with the number of new deaths decreasing, and everyone learning how to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus better, lawmakers should encourage people to find ways to return to work safely. Moreover, they should consider a superior way of preparing for the next recession: unemployment insurance savings accounts.

We have all heard it relentlessly repeated that green policies are the only sure way to protect the environment and stop climate change. But four key works published this year are pulling away the facade surrounding green movement’s climate and energy policy prescriptions. These books and documentaries together make a convincing case that we have been misled.

As the academic year returns, COVID-19 has placed an unprecedented strain on schools and exposed a growing gap between what families want and what the system can provide. The more that education officials can mix an openness to innovative solutions with a willingness to take decisive action, the more they can close that crucial gap.

For decades, scholars nationwide have been researching the impact of state and local economic development programs. The preponderance of evidence shows most are ineffective. Even when they create jobs, the costs of the fiscal incentives they present to corporations to create jobs usually outweigh the benefits.

Mackinac Center director of labor policy Stephen Delie recently wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed describing the ongoing struggle to implement the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which protects public sector employees’ freedom of speech.

A proposed ballot initiative could result in a 150% increase in the state excise tax on cigarettes if approved by voters. Voters should pause and consider the unintended consequences of adopting this tax hike. A $2.00 per-pack increase will do more than raise revenue, it will also raise lawlessness in Oregon and likely without having a strong impact on smoking rates. There is a better solution.

The $600 weekly unemployment bonus Congress offered under the CARES act ended on July 31, and lawmakers must decide whether it’s time to get Americans back to work. If so, they should either not extend the bonus or come up with a plan to phase it out, because continuing it would hinder our efforts toward economic activity. But if they conclude that it’s not time for the whole economy to return to work, they should consider extending existing relief programs.