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Michiganders are saving big from the bipartisan auto insurance reforms passed in 2019, according to two insurance brokers that annually compare car insurance premiums among the states.

Insure.com describes Michigan as “the long-term king of high car insurance rates.” But in 2021 Louisiana dethroned the Great Lake State and now has the highest rates in the country. Michigan’s average premium was the nation’s most expensive for eight straight years, before dropping by 27% in 2021. Most of the reforms did not take effect until July 2020, so these figures reflect only about 18 months of experience under the state’s new insurance laws. Insure.com analysts expect premiums in Michigan to continue to decline in the future.

Is state government unable to perform its basic functions right now? That’s what Gov. Whitmer seemed to be saying as she vetoed a recent tax cut.

"I am vetoing SB 768 because it would strip away funding from kids, police, and communities, and according to nonpartisan analysis, blow a recurring, multi-billion-dollar hole in basic state government functions from public safety to potholes," she said.

Has the Overton Window shifted to the point where it's acceptable to discuss...the Overton Window?

Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman talked recently with the Acton Institute's Eric Kohn about the evolution of public policy ideas, the definition of the Window itself and the life of Joseph P. Overton.

The evidence is in: Demand for private school enrollment is growing in Michigan, reversing a years-long trend. For those concerned that this trend might worsen educational gaps between rich and poor, voters have a solution right now.

A recent Bridge Michigan piece highlights the resurgence of students attending private education options. In the two years since reaction to the pandemic disrupted normal routines, private religious schools have welcomed an extra 3% to 5% of students. This represents less than half of the losses Michigan private schools experienced in the previous decade. A driving factor for the rebound is that these schools consistently kept classrooms open, in clear contrast with many school districts’ remote instruction programs.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined four other governors this week to signal sympathy for citizens enduring a painful spike in energy prices. Unfortunately, Whitmer has no plans to provide actual relief as Michigan residents pay $4.25 per gallon for gas.

“We need to do all we can to put money back in people’s pockets,” Whitmer tweeted Tuesday after signing on to a letter in support of suspending federal gas taxes.

The state owns a lot of land, and manages much of it as state parks and state forests. These are held in trust for the benefit of the state’s residents. But what do people actually want from so many acres of often-remote forested land? To answer that, I spoke with Jason Hayes, the Mackinac Center’s Director of Environmental Policy, on the Overton Window podcast.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy sent a letter today demanding the state’s jobs agency produce documents that are key to validating the effectiveness of its Pure Michigan tourism promotion program.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and its consultants have maintained a veil of secrecy over their calculations of Pure Michigan’s return on investment (ROI) for many years. The state’s claims that Pure Michigan pays for itself strain credulity. The Mackinac Center has long attempted to verify these assertions, but in doing so, we have faced significant hurdles due to a lack of transparency. This year is no different.

As Gov. Whitmer issues plans to fill potholes on Michigan roadways, note that cold patch is a safety measure and not a fulfillment of a campaign promise.

“We're kicking this into overdrive, using overtime pay and contractors to get the job done, while we continue broader improvement projects across the state,” the governor said last week. “I will continue to work with anyone to fix the damn roads, make long-lasting investments in our infrastructure, and put Michigan first."

State lawmakers have a lot of money at their disposal, and legislators voted to use some of it to lower taxes. This would make Michigan more competitive, encourage small business, lower the burden of government and help Michigan’s economy recover. The rapid growth of state spending called for in the governor’s executive budget also shows that it’s important to cut taxes just to ensure that budget growth is sustainable.

The effect of lost learning from COVID school policies has impaired many high school students’ abilities to chart a path to productive futures. Though many have struggled in recent years, lawmakers have tools to enlist students directly in support of their own future professional attainment. They should use those tools.

Michigan made a promise to taxpayers in 2007 that a hike in income taxes would be just temporary. It was not. Now that the state is awash in cash, policymakers ought to consider making good on the old promise. Restoring the income tax to its 3.9% rate will make Michigan more competitive, encourage job growth, and attract more people to the state.

Last year, 14 states cut their taxes. On this week’s Overton Window podcast, I talk about why they did so with long-term taxpayers advocate and strategist Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. 

Tax cuts are not only popular, Norquist says, but helpful to a state that seeks to attract more people. States with low — or no — income taxes tend to attract people from high-tax states.

Some bad ideas just won’t die.

Legislators introduced a pair of bills in the Michigan House and Senate earlier this month aimed at bringing back the state’s corporate tax incentive for the entertainment industry. If enacted into law, taxpayers would reimburse 20 to 30 percent of in-state spending on film, television, and commercial productions for the next decade. The program would cost taxpayers up to $50 million annually to start and $100 million annually ten years from now.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday derisively dismissed a tax cut proposal passed by the Senate. Her argument against a cut was supported by a Lansing group that argued wealthy taxpayers would enjoy the largest share of the tax relief. Such an analysis is overly simplistic and lacks basic but vital context. 

Editor’s Note: To read the Spanish-language version of this blog post, click here.

Nota del editor: para leer la versión en espanol de este blog, haga clic aquí

The economies of most Midwestern states have not performed particularly well over the years, as indicated by many objectively measurable categories. The Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy and Mexico-based Caminos de la Libertad use these categories, as well as data about income, migration and related indicators, to find the best policies for human well-being.

Editor's Note: This piece first appeared on January 27, 2022, in the Oakland Press. 

My high school-aged boys were on a non- stop merry-go-round: Hybrid. Virtual. In-person. Quarantine.

As our sons headed into the 2020-2021 school year, these were just a few of Michigan’s new public school policies. We were hopeful, because the Michigan Department of Education and our school districts had had five months to figure out a plan for education during a pandemic. Unfortunately, as the school year went on, our hopes began to diminish.

Michigan’s governor wants another major infusion of extra tax dollars into the state’s public schools. The predictable approach has been rewarded with approving media headlines. But one troubling aspect of her proposed spending has received little attention: the extent to which it picks winners and losers.

"Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves."

-- Ronald Reagan

Can students, and the public, ever move beyond the sentiment that “there oughta be a law”? Is it possible to break that easy and unfortunately comfortable habit of demanding increased regulation at the first sign of any environmental problem?

The first food delivery services began in the 1700s. Pizza delivery took off in the 1960s and has been a staple of the industry ever since. Teenagers have done it for decades. There has largely been limited, or zero, government regulation of these services across the United States. But a proposed bill in Michigan would change that by requiring people who deliver food to get a certification.

The Overton Window for cigarette policy is narrow. Cigarettes are highly regulated and highly taxed. To the extent that there is a policy debate, it tends center around whether to ban menthol cigarettes and whether to raise taxes. Yet the popularity of new nicotine products like e-cigarettes has changed the policy debate, and to talk about this, I spoke with Michelle Minton, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

When state lawmakers approved $1 billion in new selective business subsidies, they didn’t specify what companies would need to do to receive payments. What administrators came up with may not be what legislators intended.

Some programs give companies money based on the wages they pay for new jobs. Others give out money based on how much the companies spend on buildings and equipment. And some offer tax credits to companies when they spend money on favored activities like research and development. For this latest program, policymakers did not specify how recipients would qualify for cash. Instead, they let administrators fill in the details.

Flint schools are open at last. The heavily funded but troubled Flint Community Schools reopened classrooms Monday, becoming one of the state’s last holdouts to return to in-person instruction.

The district is flush with cash, but its commitment to keeping classes open has been weak. More than 90% of Flint students come from low-income families. While remote instruction typically lowers achievement for all, economically disadvantaged students stand at even greater risk of losing ground.

State lawmakers in December 2021 approved a new $1 billion corporate handout program called SOAR, or Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve. General Motors was quickly approved by the state’s “jobs” fund to receive the bulk of the fund’s first appropriation. All that’s left now to complete the deal is a final sign-off of the state’s appropriations committees. The members should reject this deal.

While Michigan employs 205,200 fewer people than in February 2020, a 4.6% decrease, the state government’s budget continues to grow.

To keep the government from spending more and further crowding out the productive private sector, the Mackinac Center has created the Sustainable Michigan Budget. This plan would set a maximum limit on what lawmakers can spend, based on changes in population and inflation. The next state budget would be allowed to grow by 3.15% under this formula, limiting spending of revenue from state taxes and fees to $39.1 billion.

The Michigan Senate Finance committee passed a bill to the full senate that would lower the income tax rate, the corporate income tax rate, and to give families a $500 tax credit for each of their dependent children. It’s good to see that lawmakers are interested in lowering taxes. It improves state competitiveness and creates jobs. It’s also a good time to consider tax cuts, since strong revenue growth ensures that the state can afford to reduce tax rates.