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Recommendations to Strengthen Civil Society and Balance Michigan's State Budget

An Analysis of Fiscal-Year 2002-03 Appropriations and Recommendations for 2003-04

If Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan Legislature need specifics on how to close Michigan’s looming $1.7 billion budget deficit, they need look no further than the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s new report on balancing the state budget, released today.

More than 200 specific recommendations from Mackinac Center analysts total more than $2 billion in cost savings and revenue enhancements. All budget reductions, including those involving federal funds, total $3.7 billion. 157 pages.

Proposed Budget Reductions for the Michigan Department of Agriculture

Gov. Granholm and the Michigan Legislature can save $34 million in the state agriculture budget, and sell state land for another $59 million.

The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts

An Assessment of What Michigan Public School Districts Can Do to Save Money Without Laying Off Teachers or Other Essential Staff

The Clean Michigan Initiative: An Assessment

An Examination of the Goals, Results and Fiscal Consequences of Michigan's Most Ambitious Environmental Bond Program

Proposal 3: Establishing a Constitutional Requirement Extending Mandatory Collective Bargaining and Binding Arbitration to State Government Employees

On Nov. 5, 2002, Michigan voters will consider Proposal 02-03 ("Proposal 3"), an amendment to the state constitution that, if passed, would fundamentally alter the relationship between the State of Michigan and its employees.

The Effect of Right-to-Work Laws on Economic Development

The right to decide for yourself whether or not to support a union in your workplace: union officials dismiss it as "the right to starve", but for the last thirty years Right-to-Work states have been outperforming compuslory unionism states such as Michigan. This report demonstrates how individual freedom and higher productivity give workers in Right-to-Work states the edge in job opportunities, employment, and purchasing power.

Keeping Michigan on Track:

A Blueprint for a Freer, More Prosperous State

New legislative opportunities will come with the fall elections for the Michigan House, Senate, and governorship. Read the Mackinac Center's policy recommendations for the next Legislature and governor below.

The Michigan Union Accountability Act:

A Step Toward Accountability and Democracy in Labor Organizations

Unions in Michigan represent over 900,000 workers and take in more than $250 million in membership dues annually. But in spite of their expansive wealth and political power, requirements that unions disclose their financial dealings are minimal. Reform of the federal reporting system, which governs private-sector unions, is needed but unlikely in the current political climate. Michigan can take the lead by passing its own Union Accountability Act, requiring annual financial disclosure reports and independent audits of public-sector union affiliates active in the Great Lakes State.

The Case for Choice in Schooling:

Restoring Parental Control of Education

After 40 years of struggle, school choice is now at the center of the debate over school reform in America, and it is of primary importance that the public understand the facts-and avoid the myths-surrounding this issue. This three-part primer is designed to educate and inform citizens about all aspects of school choice and equip them to participate in the debate as fully informed members of their communities. The report contains a historical overview of tax-funded schooling, demonstrates the failure of many popular reforms of the past and present, explains the various types of school choice, identifies the barriers to education reform, dispels myths surrounding school choice, and outlines strategic plans parents and other concerned citizens can follow to advance the cause of greater school choice.

The Cost of Remedial Education

More than a third of Michigan students leave high school without possessing basic academic skills including reading, writing, and arithmetic. This forces employers and post-secondary schools to take up the slack. This study conservatively estimates that Michigan businesses and institutions of higher education spend over $600 million annually to teach employees and students skills they should have learned in high school. The comparable national figure is $16.6 billion, but the human costs of K-12 educational failure are incalculable, according to experts' essays included in the study's appendices.

The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts

Case studies of how school districts in Michigan's largest county are responding to competition from charter schools and public "schools-of-choice"

Religious Liberty and Compulsory Unionism: A Worker's Guide to Using Union Dues for Charity

Many employees in unionized workplaces do not know that if they harbor religious objections to joining, financing, or otherwise associating with labor unions, they have legal recourse if their union or employer or both violate those rights. This report explains the statutes and developing case law that protect religious employees' freedom of conscience in the workplace by allowing them to refrain from union membership and divert their compulsory dues to a charity of their choice.

Environmental Quality 2000: Michigan and America at the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day

Public opinion about the environment is often marked by unwarranted pessimism about the state of our air, water, and natural resources. But the most recent government data show that America in general, and Michigan in particular, have seen impressive gains in environmental quality since the first Earth Day 30 years ago. This report presents decades of facts and figures on Michigan and U.S. air and water quality, land use, and other environmental factors to show that, far from worsening, environmental conditions have actually improved substantially-and are likely to continue improving.

Internet Purchases: To Tax or Not to Tax, Here Are the Questions

Has the growth of tax-free Internet sales hurt state revenues or education funding? Is it "unfair" for sales over the Internet not to be taxed while other sales are taxed? Would imposing new taxes on the Internet do serious damage to the ability of this new form of commerce to thrive? Does the growth of tax-free online shopping pose a threat to traditional "bricks-and-mortar" retailers? This study addresses these and other questions in order to provide state, local, and federal policy-makers with the intellectual and empirical ammunition they need to keep the taxman at bay.

Trade Liberalization: The North American Free Trade Agreement's Economic Impact on Michigan

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is six years old. Has it benefited Michigan's economy? Or has it destroyed jobs and hampered prosperity, as predicted by many who participated in the national debate that raged for two years prior to its ratification? The verdict is in, and the available data clearly show that free trade is proving to be a significant boon to Michigan businesses and citizens. This study analyzes five years of import and export figures to show that the tariff cuts enacted by NAFTA have led to significantly increased Michigan exports to Canada and Mexico. The study concludes that while some businesses may have been hurt by NAFTA, on balance, removing government barriers to trade has been a positive step toward increasing the prosperity and standards of living for Michigan citizens-and citizens throughout America, Canada, and Mexico.

Internet Access: Government Intervention or Private Innovation?

The Internet has transformed our way of life; and new "broadband" technologies promise even greater benefits through high-speed Internet access and communications. Unfortunately, because major cable companies currently have the capacity to provide this technology to their clients, other Internet service providers (ISPs) are crying foul. They are calling the cable companies' "head start" unfair and forming alliances to get the government to force cable companies to make their high-speed broadband lines available for use by all ISPs on equal terms. This study explains why this government intervention would be a terrible idea. It analyzes market trends and technological possibilities to show that "forced access" would significantly increase costs for consumers with no benefit to show for the added expense. The study concludes that "forced access" would stifle the innovation that naturally emerges from the free play of market forces. It shows why government should not only refrain from interfering with broadband technology, but should allow competition between local cable providers in order to maximize the potential of this exciting new technology.

Michigan's Prevailing Wage Law and Its Effects on Government Spending and Construction Employment

Michigan's Prevailing Wage Act of 1965 requires contractors to pay artificially high union wages on all state-financed projects from road repair to school construction. This study examined the performance of Michigan's economy for two 30-month periods prior to and during the law's suspension by a federal district court and found that taxpayers could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually if the law were permanently repealed. The study also reveals prevailing wage laws' negative effect on job creation in the construction industry and their discriminatory impact on black and other minority workers. 21 pages.

Michigan Labor Law: What Every Citizen Should Know

Michigan is one of the most unionized states in the country, with a long and sometimes troubled labor history that powerfully affects every citizen in the state from blue-collar factory workers to suburban soccer moms. Yet few understand how modern labor unions and state and federal labor laws operate. This study clearly and concisely explains the history of organized labor in America, how government unions affect the democratic process, how compulsory unionism interferes with workers' rights of free speech and association, and much more. Several recommendations for reform point the way toward restoring a more balanced, government-neutral approach to Michigan labor relations.

School Choice in Michigan: A Primer for Freedom in Education

  School choice--the right, freedom, and ability of parents to choose for their children the safest and best schools--has moved front and center in the debate over how to improve education in Michigan. This three-part primer equips parents, educators, and policy makers with the facts they need to understand and advance market-based reforms that will help all Michigan schools perform at higher levels of quality and efficiency.
  The primer examines the history of government-funded and operated schooling, explains why nonmarket-oriented school reform efforts ultimately fail, and describes various school choice proposals including charter schools, inter-district choice, vouchers, tax credits, and universal tuition tax credits. Helpful appendices explain ways for grass-roots citizens to help advance school choice.

The Impact of School Choice on School Employee Labor Unions

  As school choice heads for the 2000 ballot in Michigan, it is important for citizens to understand how proposals including K-12 vouchers and tuition tax credits will affect the school employee unions that exert such a powerful influence on the state’s public school system.
  This study examines union membership rates among Michigan’s public, charter, and private school teachers and found that while teachers in every public school district are represented by-and pay dues to-a union, only 5 out of 139 charter and 2 out of over one thousand private schools employ unionized workforces.
  The study concludes that school employee unions-including the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Federation of Teachers-have powerful political and financial incentives to spend millions of dollars to prevent more parents from being able to choose non-unionized charter or private schools for their children.