It should be hard for state lawmakers to cut taxes. Unlike the U.S. Congress, they have to balance the state budget each year, which means any dollar in tax cuts reduces spending or the growth of the state budget. The beneficiaries of the spending have a strong incentive to keep it going, while the beneficiaries of tax cuts tend to gain only a little from tax cuts. It’s a classic problem of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. Yet, more than a dozen states have cut taxes in the past year. Mississippi is the most recent state, and I spoke with Russ Latino, president of Empower Mississippi about it for the Overton Window podcast.

Former State Rep. Jon Hoadley was rejected by the Michigan Senate for his appointment to the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees. I have no idea whether Hoadley was a good selection for the school’s board. I don’t know what the people who voted against his appointment thought about him, either. The controversy, however, demonstrates that Michigan’s state universities would be better off as independent nonprofit schools.

The $208 each Michigan household would have saved from a tax rate reduction was too much for Gov. Whitmer, who vetoed the cut, calling it “unsustainable.” But based on the budget the governor proposed, a better explanation is that she prefers to spend more money than to let people keep more of what they earn.

Michigan parents may soon get some of the same help Ohio parents are now receiving to cover for extra education expenses.

Ohio’s Afterschool Child Enrichment or ACE account program opened to parents Monday, the Buckeye Institute reports. Eligible families – including those earning up to about $83,000 a year for a family of four – can receive $500 to cover the costs of “tutoring, curricula, day camp fees, language and music classes, and field trips.” Recipients are free to decide which services and providers they will enlist to help their child catch up from pandemic-related challenges.

This article originally appeared in Bridge Michigan March 23 2022.

Families should have opportunities to get more information from schools that can help them provide a motivating and effective education.

Yet today parents in different parts of the state are hampered in their efforts to see what their children are taught. Forest Hills Public Schools in west Michigan sent a $400,000 bill to parents who formally sought documents that show how racial issues are being presented in the classroom. More recently, a Rochester mom filed suit with help from the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation after her district stonewalled requests to view the list of materials used in a particular high school course and the associated teacher training.

This article originally appeared in The Hill March 23, 2022.

How devastating would it be for a state to lose all the energy from its vast wind-power apparatus in the middle of a global energy crisis? Michigan is about to find out.

The state soon will lose at least 5.8 million annual megawatt hours of carbon dioxide-free energy production. That’s an amount equal to all the energy produced by the wind industry that Michigan has built up over the past 13 years, at a cost of more than $5 billion.

Elected officials in Washington, DC dragged seven oil and gas executives into hearings last week, demanding they defend themselves against congressional claims that the industry is “gouging [Americans] at the gas station.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee held the hearing to repeat price gouging charges that date back at least to the 1974 oil embargo and that have never held up to scrutiny. Elected officials, apparently eager to deflect attention from the impacts of their own policies or to garner a helpful pre-election headline, point fingers in every direction except their own.

This article originally appeared in The Hill March 5, 2022. 

Winning presidential candidates campaign to balance the federal budget and pay down debt. Yet the deficit continues to increase, and there has been a proliferation of debt over the past 20 years. Total federal government spending increased from $2.8 trillion to $7.2 trillion from 2000 to 2021, when adjusting for inflation, or from 18 percent of economic production to 33 percent. Federal debt increased from $8.9 trillion to $30.2 trillion. This happened despite campaign pledges from the winning candidates to avoid spending and debt.

This article by Megan Chalfant and F. Vincent Vernuccio originally appeared on the Workers For Opportunity site April 7.

When Indiana teachers review their union membership form this fall, they’ll see something new.

In legible, 14-point bold text will be these words: The State of Indiana wishes to make you aware that you have a First Amendment right…to refrain from joining and paying dues to a union.

This article originally appeared in The Detroit News March 23.

Two years ago, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer invoked emergency powers and launched a war against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. She singlehandedly commanded the state’s response — a historically unprecedented exercise of executive power. This was necessary to defeat the disease, we were told. But right now, victory seems illusive.

It used to be that most everyone went to public schools and the only political debate about this was how much more to give the schools next year. That started to change in the 1990s and gained momentum into this century. Last year, 19 states passed reforms to allow more charter schools, to fund students rather than institutions, and to help give parents more options on how they can educate their children.

This article originally appeared in The Hill March 12 2022.

President Biden repeatedly has promised to be “the most pro-union president in American history.” But there’s one key group of people standing in his way: The tens of millions of workers who want nothing to do with union membership.

During the early months of the pandemic, many worried that lost revenues from restrictive economic policies would break public school budgets. But it turns out the worst fears for Michigan K-12 finances were misplaced.

In April 2020, the Mackinac Center responded to projected shortfalls with suggested budget items to cut, including areas of the school aid budget less focused on classrooms and student needs. Local and state officials braced themselves for a disruption to the years-long trend of rising per-pupil revenues in Michigan’s K-12 system, a disruption that never came.

Editor's Note: A shortened version of this piece first appeared in the Traverse City Record Eagle on April 6, 2022. 

Some state lawmakers are again playing with the notion of Michigan taxpayers bankrolling film production here. The last time officials tried to bring movie magic to Michigan, it cost taxpayers a staggering $500 million and produced almost nothing.

When Gov. Whitmer vetoed a tax cut that would have reduced the state’s income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9%, she claimed that the state could not afford to reduce taxes. The governor said that the state would have lost $2.5 billion a year from the tax cut, along with the additional child tax credit and boosted senior exemptions. Not taking that $2.5 billion from Michigan taxpayers would “blow a recurring, multi-billion-dollar hole in basic state government functions from public safety to potholes,” Whitmer said.

It's been more than a month since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and gas prices are still well above $4 per gallon.

International instability plays a role in the most recent price spikes, but that does not erase the fact that the sustained increase in domestic energy prices began with President Biden’s election and can be linked to his domestic energy policies. The administration continues to point the finger elsewhere, claiming to have encouraged the oil and gas industry to rapidly increase production. But if Biden really wants to reduce prices for consumers, he could do two relatively simple things.

Congress passed massive stimulus spending last March to help states that were expected to suffer revenue losses due to the pandemic. But because state tax revenues remained higher than expected, Michigan lawmakers were left figuring out how to spend all that money coming from Washington.

Some medical providers in Michigan are pushing to eliminate the cost controls put in place by the bipartisan auto insurance reforms from 2019. These were a critical element of the reform, and reversing them would jeopardize the savings millions of Michigan drivers are just now beginning to realize.

Like many public policy advocates, the people at the Georgia Center for Opportunity research and write about public policy. What makes them different is that they try to bridge the gap between people working at the community level and the people working on state policy. I spoke with their president and CEO Randy Hicks about this for the Overton Window podcast.

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. 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. 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.