Michigan’s business subsidy programs are ineffective at creating jobs, unfair to the businesses that don’t get them and expensive to the state budget. They are also unreliable: Few companies are applying for subsidies when the state is losing jobs, and that’s a problem for programs ostensibly designed to create jobs.

Tax evasion and avoidance may be as old as taxation. A Sumerian proverb dating back at least 3,900 years said: “You can have a lord, you can have a king, but the man to fear is the tax collector.” That was no joke. Citizens in ancient civilizations endured the modern-day equivalent of tax audits, and tax cheats of the old world were punished harshly, sometimes with brutal beatings, or worse.

Did you know that one of Michigan’s largest monopoly electric utilities is currently seeking the state government’s approval to radically change how it provides electricity to its customers? The company’s plans will have an impact on your daily life and your use of electricity for years to come.

Wildfires throughout the West are making headlines again this summer. While much attention is paid to whether climate change is making wildfires more frequent or intense, Jonathan Wood of the Property and Environment Research Center argues that dangerous fires can be mitigated with better forest management policies. I talked with him about it for the Overton Window podcast.

What do cocktail recipes, pirate crews and deposed princes have in common? They all make great book subjects.

For over three decades, the Mackinac Center has welcomed a multitude of interns. They enjoy the opportunity to work directly with staff on the Center’s projects, participating in research, writing and graphic design. Many former interns now work as policy researchers, attorneys and professors. A few have published books, weighing in on everything from energy policy to the workings of anarchy.

The hopes of many Michigan parents for a normal return to school took a blow this week from the nation’s public health officials. The latest announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could escalate local tensions and the need for more education options, even though some districts have taken a different policy stance from the CDC.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on July 15, 2021.

On June 3, I testified before the House Oversight Committee and explained that Michigan has been undercounting COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities. This was revealed after our client, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff, sued the state for failing to fulfill a public record request.

Legislative Initiative Petition 1: Repeal one of two state emergency powers laws: Repealed 60 to 48 in the House on July 21, 2021

To approve an “initiated law” that would repeal one of the two Michigan statutes that authorize a governor to assume extraordinary powers during an emergency, including statewide “lockdowns” like those ordered under the 2020 coronavirus epidemic.

Last week, Gov. Whitmer wielded her veto pen to keep parents of struggling readers from getting ahold of federal relief funds to decide how to help their children. Her formal veto letter offered no explanation why she struck down $155 million for Michigan families to receive reading scholarships.

Few issues can provoke as intense or immediate passion as removing protections for an animal under the Endangered Species Act — also known as delisting — or the conservation of charismatic megafauna — large, easily recognizable plant or animal species. The decision to delist Michigan’s gray wolf population, and to transfer their management back into the hands of the states, hits both of those sensitive areas.

Responding to a citizen-led initiative, the Michigan Legislature recently repealed the state’s Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945. It was the law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used last year to unilaterally issue unprecedented lockdown orders until the Michigan Supreme Court — in a case brought by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation — ruled her actions unconstitutional. Because the law came about through a citizen initiative, the governor cannot veto the Legislature’s decision.

Last week the Michigan Court of Claims reinforced the importance of government transparency in an opinion issued as a result of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation’s lawsuit against the University of Michigan. The lawsuit followed U-M’s partial denial of a Freedom of Information Act request for the salaries of several of the university’s employees. The court ordered the school to fully disclose all of the requested information to the Mackinac Center.

In Michigan, people are freely able to rent out property that they own. This is a good thing — it makes more productive or better use of these properties, encourages investment in the local community and gives renters more options. There is no mandatory state license for those individuals who wish to rent and manage their own property.

Lawmakers find themselves in a jam over business subsidy programs. Company leaders tell them to pay up or else they’ll leave for another state. Those other places offer taxpayer cash, too. Governors and legislators may not want to compete with each other over which state can be the most profligate. This is why Illinois lobbyist Dan Johnson is working to get states to sign onto an interstate compact to eliminate corporate welfare, and I spoke to him about it for the Overton Window podcast.

Legislative Initiative Petition 1: Repeal one of two state emergency powers laws: Passed 20 to 15 in the Senate

To approve an “initiated law” that would repeal one of the two state laws that authorize a governor to assume extraordinary powers during an emergency, including statewide “lockdowns” like those ordered under the 2020 coronavirus epidemic.

The Ford Motor Company recently announced the release of the 2022 F-150 Lightning, its all-electric pickup truck. Unsurprisingly, its announcement was praised for its potential role in helping to reduce vehicle emissions. Although electric vehicles are lauded as a critical component of reducing transportation-related emissions and their impact on the climate, this push to electrify transportation raises at least one question: How much of an impact on air quality will be achieved by the electrification of vehicles?

Consumers Energy’s proposal to ramp up its solar energy production in Michigan raises questions about whether the company will be able to supply reliable energy to its customers. Its plan to rely on solar also raises some key questions about the ethics of Michigan’s future energy supplies. One of the main components of solar energy infrastructure is a processed form of silicon called polysilicon. China produces a huge share of the world’s polysilicon.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on June 23, 2021.

If other states are going to give handouts to big companies, some lawmakers feel like they have to as well — to do otherwise, they say, would be to unilaterally disarm in the war for jobs. While our mothers might mention something about bridges and not following the bad behaviors of your peers, there is also another option.

What was nearly unimaginable during last spring’s first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic came to fruition: Michigan’s school aid budget not only reached record levels — again — but did so by wide margins. Depending on whether you count the windfall of federal money, the funding peak starts either in this fiscal year or the next one.

The state government’s business subsidies are impractical, and lawmakers should stop offering them. They are ineffective at growing the economy, unfair to the businesses that don’t get them, and expensive to the state budget. This is one reason why we maintain a scorecard on how lawmakers vote on business subsidy programs.

This week, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision protecting the privacy of individuals who support nonprofit organizations.

The case, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, challenged a California requirement that any charity seeking to solicit funds must disclose its major donors to the state attorney general. This requirement was imposed by Vice President Kamala Harris when she was California’s attorney general. In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “California’s disclosure requirement is facially invalid because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest.”

Getting lawmakers to do something different can be hard. Years of research, marketing and crafting careful arguments can feel wasted when elected officials ignore them. Perhaps no one knows this more than the people at the Institute for Justice, who work on tough issues that often take years, if not decades, to resolve. I spoke with Bob McNamara, a lawyer and advocate who heads up their work in protecting occupational speech under the First Amendment, about how they stay motivated to work on issues that will take a long time to win.

Senate Bill 28: Spend more on auto crash rehab facilities: Passed 33 to 0 in the Senate

To appropriate $25 million for grants to certain rehab clinics said to be aggrieved by fee caps in the 2019 auto insurance reform law. This law eliminated a requirement for all policies to include unlimited lifetime medical and personal care benefits for crash victims, which was said to generate of fraud and abuse, and was cited as a major reason for the state's very high insurance costs.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 437 into law, which allows developers of a particular project in Detroit to stay eligible for business subsidies after their eligibility expires. The law has been added to the business subsidy scorecard, which has tracked the extent to which legislators have voted for and against new business subsidies since 2001.

For decades, the media has long repeated the cry about an alleged teacher shortage in Michigan. Finding teachers in some subjects and in some areas of the state is often a challenge. But for the most part, there are still plenty of educators and plenty of applicants for Michigan school districts. Still, for those concerned that we don’t have enough teachers, one answer is to make it easier to welcome qualified educators instead of pushing them away.