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Five Options for Addressing ‘Transition Costs’ When Closing the MPSERS Pension Plan

Michigan Public School Employee Retirement Plans
in Need of Reform

This study considers the supposed ‘transition costs’ that would be effected by a state switch from a defined-benefit to defined-contribution retirement system. In it, the “transition costs” are found to be nonbinding and discretionary. In addition, the study offers the state a series of reforms that would diffuse such costs, as well as consideration for the long-term fiscal improvements that would arise from payment of the pension’s unfunded liabilities.

Loar v. Michigan Department of Human Services Brief

This booklet contains the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation’s final legal filing in a nationally known case involving the illegal unionization of Michigan’s home-based day care business owners and providers as government employees. Wright argued the case in the Michigan courts on behalf of Sherry Loar, Michelle Berry and Paulette Silverson, who each own home-based day care businesses.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sued to end the DHS' illegal diversion of so-called "union dues" from state subsidy checks received by home-based day care providers who watch children from low-income families. The "dues" were funneled to a government-employee union that purports to represent more than 40,000 of Michigan's home-based day care providers, who are actually private business owners and independent contractors.

The case was ruled moot by the Michigan Supreme Court after the DHS ceased to collect the dues and the DHS director stated that these home-based day care providers are not public employees.

101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan

For policymakers and voters serious about restoring freedom and economic vitality in the Great Lakes State, the Mackinac Center presents the following 101 recommendations.

An Assessment of ALICE: A Misleading Measure of Poverty

This study reviews United Way's ALICE reports and explains several problems with the methodology. It also demonstrates how these results have been misinterpreted and misused in the media and elsewhere. Ultimately, the ALICE reports fail to provide a valid estimate of the financial situations of the people it intends to study and does more to mislead policymakers and the public than it does to inform them. As such, these reports distract from the real needs faced by households that struggle to make ends meet.

What's Ahead for Labor Policy

With Democrats controlling the House, Senate and presidency, there are new questions for those interested in labor policy: What should we expect for labor issues in the immediate future?

There are a number of ramifications that may come from these election results that are not directly related to labor. These include attempts to pack the Supreme Court, eliminate the filibuster and incorporate new states. Nevertheless, there are many initiatives that people interested in labor policy should be prepared to address. These include both legislative and administrative actions, each of which are significant, but not guaranteed.

Flex Learning

Funding New Pathways for Student Success

This report explains how Michigan could pursue a flexible funding program that would give learners greater agency, especially for middle-school and secondary students and their families. Charting a path to complete a diploma, every student would be allowed to use a portion of their per-pupil allotment to “purchase” courses from schools for both online and face-to-face instruction. This funding could also be used for dual-enrollment classes, apprenticeships, career and technical training and other learning opportunities from a broad menu of providers.

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2020

This is the 18th edition of the Mackinac Center's annual school privatization survey. We ask every school district in the state if they outsource one of the three main noninstructional services — custodial, transportation and food services. The results from this year's survey show that 69.9% of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

Proposal 1 of 2020: Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment

This policy brief describes the changes to Michigan's Constitution and the Natural Resources Trust Fund and State Parks Endowment Fund that Proposal one would make. It explains how these trust funds currently work to help voters better understand the effects of their vote on this ballot question.

Evidence Required: A Critical Review of 'Improving Oversight of Michigan Charter Schools and Their Authorizers'

This paper offers a critical review of a report published in March by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan titled “Improving Oversight of Michigan Charter Schools and Their Authorizers.”

Extinguishing the Wildfire Threat

Lessons from Arizona

In this report, we extend earlier research that described many of the historical, political, and policy reasons our nation’s publicly managed forests are plagued by large, dangerous wildfires. Our earlier research, published by the Mackinac Center and the Property and Environment Research Center as "Conflict to Cooperation," explained how the management of federal lands has been stalled by a confusing and complex web of legislative and regulatory constraints as well as a variety of conflicting uses and policy views. This research, published by the Mackinac Center and the Goldwater Institute, explains how the Four Forest Restoration Initiative has served as an early example of how pulling together disparate voices and views on forest management can improve overall outcomes. While the 4FRI effort has encountered some setbacks and difficulties, it has (and can continue to) demonstrate the value of collaborative management in ensuring active and effective forest management, reduced wildfire risk, and improved forest health.

Assessing the Costs of the U.P. Energy Task Force Committee Recommendations

In response to the findings of the Statewide Energy Assessment and under a further directive by Gov. Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy released the “Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force Committee Recommendations Part I – Propane Supply” in April 2020. This task force was created by Gov. Whitmer in June 2019 and directed to “consider all available information and make recommendations that ensure the U.P.’s energy needs are met in a manner that is reliable, affordable, and environmentally sound.” Their report on propane supply offered 14 recommendations “to better track and anticipate supply and demand, minimize disruption impact, and provide a more cohesive plan for those who are disproportionally impacted by high energy costs in the U.P.”

We analyze the potential impacts and feasibility of these recommendations in this report. We also explore the use of alternative fuels to propane such as natural gas and electricity to provide for winter heating needs in the Upper Peninsula.

Private Conservation Working Group Meeting and Public Panel

Summary and Proceedings

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy invited a variety of conservation experts to participate in a policy workshop. During the one-day meeting, workshop participants were each given a block of time to present their views on private conservation in the state of Michigan. Each described the strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results they saw from their personal and sector perspective.

In the meeting, participants were encouraged to leverage individual decision-making, private property rights and voluntary trade to improve conservation in the state. Further discussion and interaction helped to clarify and prioritize incentives involved with conserving natural areas.

This report summarizes the policy recommendations discussed at this workshop.

A History of Michigan's Controversial 1945 Emergency Powers Law

The Emergency Powers of Governor Act is the law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is using to unilaterally control the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report explains how this law was used by previous governors. Until 2020, it was used 11 times in response to five emergency situations: labor unrest in Hillsdale in 1964, urban riots in 1967, more riots in 1968, high mercury levels in waters near St. Clair in 1970 and for a riot in Ypsilanti in 1970.

[Author's note: See Update and Corrections for the most recent information.]

Economic Development? State Handouts and Jobs

A New Look at the Evidence

This study analyzing the impact of several major economic development programs run by the state of Michigan dating back to 1983. The authors use the National Establishment Time Series database to track the performance of firms that were offered some form of fiscal incentive from the state. It compares those firms' job growth to those of similar firms that were not offered incentives.

This analysis finds that only three of the nine programs studied had a statistically significant positive impact on job growth for firms that were offered incentives, but this job growth came at a significant cost: on average, the state offered nearly $600,000 worth of incentives for every job created.