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Student Mobility Scholarships: Helping Families Access the Best Schools

Michigan could support low-income families’ efforts to transport their children to better schools and boost these children’s chances for upward socioeconomic mobility by creating Student Mobility Scholarships. A transportation scholarship plan is rooted in the idea of providing a more level playing field for Michigan's most economically disadvantaged families. The idea is for the state to assist qualifying families in paying some of the costs incurred from transporting a student to a school of their choice.

Protecting the Secret Ballot: The Dangers of Union Card Check

A secret ballot election is one where individuals get to make a private choice based on their own personal decision, and this is how most unions certification elections work. However, unions can also become certified to be the exclusive bargaining representative of a workplace through a process known as "card check." Under this method, unions can "win" an election when a majority of the workers sign authorization cards. The significant downside to elections via card check is that workers can easily be pressured, intimidated and even coerced into signing cards because they are not afforded the privacy of a voting booth.

Unions have repeatedly lobbied to make it easier for them to use card check elections, and a new bill in Congress would do just that: the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. This report explains why certain provisions of the PRO Act are problematic, and why it is important to protect the right of workers to use the secret ballot for union certification elections.

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2019

This is the 17th 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 69.7% of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

The Wayfair Decision: How Michigan Policymakers Should Respond

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair last June overturned decades of precedent governing which businesses states could subject to collection and remittance requirements for sales taxes. This report offers guidance on how Michigan should modify its tax laws to implement these new taxation standards. It raises important questions that lawmakers should consider before subjecting new businesses and entrepreneurs to new tax collection requirements.

Workforce Development in Michigan

This report provides a survey of existing workforce development efforts in Michigan, both public and private. It includes a review of career and technical education provided by K-12 school districts, occupational training programs provided through community colleges, as well as job training offered by for-profit entities, unions, industry associations and private, nonprofit organizations. After reviewing these current programs, the report offers general skepticism about the ability of the state to provide the type of workforce development that many politicians claim is needed.

Multilateral Disarmament: A State Compact to End Corporate Welfare

This study provides a plan for how states can end the harmful competition that the practice of corporate welfare encourages. It describes why corporate welfare is damaging to local and state economies and a zero-sum game from a national perspective. It also ranks the states based on how many handouts they make to favored businesses.

In addition, it offers an entirely new strategy to end policies that economists agree are wasteful. By entering into a state compact, as they are authorized to do under the U.S. Constitution, states could agree not to offer preferential tax treatment or other subsidies in an attempt to lure businesses into their borders. Instead, states will compete as they were designed to under the U.S. Constitution, based on regulatory burdens, business culture and broad-based tax policy.

Ending the Skimming of Union Dues from Federal Child Care Funds

This report, jointly published by the Freedom Foundation and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, outlines how the federal government can put an end to the inappropriate use of funding for two federal programs: the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Child Care and Development Fund. Despite Supreme Court rulings against the practice, several states still allow unions to siphon off dues payments from these funds intended to support home care and child care services for low-income families and the disabled.

A Primer on Michigan's Criminal Justice System

This report describes the basics of how Michigan’s criminal justice system works: explaining some essential features of criminal law, the various layers of law enforcement, adjudication processes, prison policy and more. Unlike most policy papers, however, this report is meant to be strictly descriptive. That is, it does not attempt to judge the effectiveness of Michigan’s current criminal justice system or provide policy recommendations. It is hoped that the information contained here will contribute to more informed debate about how to best improve Michigan’s criminal justice system.

Questions for Appropriators

This questionnaire was developed to guide lawmakers as they scrutinize agency budget requests. In both good times and bad, the sum of these requests will always exceed available revenues. Government agencies’ and program budgets should never operate on auto-pilot. By following this template and obtaining basic information about each program’s origin, purpose, performance, legal authority, funding history and federal connections, policymakers can then hone in on specific changes to consider for the programs — including funding or staffing levels, performance measures and legislative reforms.

The conversation this information will spark can help forge agreement about how to efficiently and effectively meet the needs of Michigan residents and how to use the final state budget to best serve the needs of the public. Careful consideration of spending priorities such as this can boost public confidence in state government and elected officials.

From Prohibited to Permitted: A Legal History of Corporate Handouts in Michigan

Elected officials today regularly try to woo large companies into locating to their state or city by offering them special tax treatment or subsidizing them in some way. States and cities compete with each other in this regard — Michigan is no exception — and this competition makes national headlines when well-known companies choose to relocate or expand. With this in mind, one might reasonably assume that publicly funded economic development is a long-standing, firmly established practice. But that’s not the case in Michigan.

This report chronicles the history of Michigan Supreme Court decisions on this issue. It is not a formal legal review of the case law, but rather a historical account of the most important cases, spanning from Michigan’s earliest days as a new state to the ratification of the current constitution in 1963. The narrative that unfolds will surprise those not familiar with Michigan’s unique experience with taxpayer-funded corporate handouts.

Conflict to Cooperation: Collaborative Management of Federal Lands in Michigan

The actions of federal land managers can often set private landowners and the general public at odds with government agencies. This conflict can take several forms: overly strict rule enforcement, intractability in settling boundary disputes, delays in issuing permits and stringent restrictions on accessing public lands. This paper reviews some of the laws governing federal lands, as well as describes some of the conflicts that have arisen. It then gives examples of collaborative management approaches that have avoided or resolved conflicts in Michigan and around the country. Applying them more frequently in Michigan could help reduce conflicts across the state and lead to improved environmental outcomes, as well as increased public access to Michigan’s national forests.

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2018

This is the 16th 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 70.5 percent of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

How Bail Works in Michigan and Recommendations for Reform

Bail is the process by which criminal defendants secure their release while awaiting trial. It allows people who have been charged with a crime to be released from police custody. In recent years, the criminal justice system has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum because cash bail has come to be imposed on so many criminal defendants. Data increasingly indicate that releasing a defendant pretrial has a significant impact on his long-term prospects. It affects the defendant’s ability to retain his housing, employment, and child custody, the probability that he will go on to commit another crime and even the likelihood of a favorable legal outcome in his case.

Research has also revealed that the majority of jail inmates are legally innocent but are being detained because they cannot afford to bail out before and during their trial. This imposes large costs on local governments but provides no clear public safety benefit. Finally and most importantly, states with misguided pretrial release policies may infringe on defendants’ liberty interests, opening themselves up to litigation and the risk of an injustice. For these reasons, stakeholders and practitioners in Michigan should work to understand the purpose of bail and implement the best pretrial practices for respecting individual rights and public resources.

This report explains in detail how the bail process works and provides recommendations for reforming it in a way that benefits criminal defendants, the court system and taxpayers.

Proposal 2 of 2018: An Explainer and Key Arguments

This policy brief describes the history of redistricting and how it is currently practiced in Michigan and in other states. It also explains Proposal 2 and how redistricting would work if it is passed. Finally, it presents an equal number of arguments for and against the proposal.

Roads in Michigan: Quality, Funding and Recommendations

This study examines the funding and condition of Michigan’s roads and bridges and presents policy recommendations regarding them. The first section of this study describes the different types of roads in Michigan, which government entity is responsible for each type and their current estimated condition. The section after that explains how road funding works. The next section then discusses how public goods such as roads should be priced and funded, based on standard economic theory. It also attempts to measure the level to which Michigan’s roads are underpriced and underfunded. The final section concludes with some policy recommendations.

Choices Voices: A Survey of Michigan Charter School Parents

Choices & Voices

This report highlights the results of a survey of nearly 1,500 parents of charter school students in Michigan. Charter schools are state-funded, tuition-free schools of choice, authorized by public agencies such as universities and community colleges.

The survey asks parents questions concerning their satisfaction with charter schools, why they chose to leave their district-run school, difficulties they may have faced enrolling in a charter school and ideas for improvements, among others. The goal of this survey is to better inform policymakers about the on-the-ground experience parents have with charter schools, so that they might pursue policies that improve Michigan's charter schools.

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What's Wrong With Michigan's No-Fault Automobile Insurance

A PDF copy of this study is available.

On Oct. 1, 1973, Michigan joined a growing number of states in adopting a “no-fault” automobile insurance law, which has remained in tack ever since. This policy brief outlines the variety of problems plaguing Michigan's auto insurance laws and explains why these issues are leading to the most expensive car insurance premiums in the nation.

The brief also describes several reform ideas for how to fix Michigan's no-fault insurance system. These reforms would maintain the no-fault approach to car insurance, but would put downward pressure on premiums, a benefit that would be enjoyed by all Michigan drivers.

A Survey of Michigan Parents Who Use School Choice

This report highlights the results of a survey conducted of Michigan parents who exercise some form of public school choice for their children. Among the diverse group of 837 parents from across the state who were interviewed, substantial majorities gave high marks to their chosen schools, said the experience boosted their expectations of their children’s future success and would likely recommend choice options to other parents. Respondents also said that information they receive from other parents influences their school choice decisions, in addition to published school performance data and in-person visits. Survey results further revealed that most parents highly value academics in making their decision, though safety and discipline are leading considerations as well.

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2017

Click here to view the PDF of the full study.

This is the 15th 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 71.5 percent of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

How School Funding Works in Michigan

Discussions about school funding can create more confusion than clarity. Each state has its own intricacies and peculiarities. Michigan is no exception. Funding flows down from different sources, often based on different formulas and intended for different purposes. There’s no one unified system that controls school funding — rather, schools rely on a number of systems layered on top of each to supply them with resources.

This publication presents a brief overview of some of the key components of Michigan’s school funding system, if it can be called that. The goal is to provide a general understanding of how tax dollars reach schools and what they are intended for.

How to Stop the 'Dues Skim' of Federal Home Health Care and Child Care Funding

A PDF copy of this study is available.

Introduction

United States taxpayers currently spend $545 billion annually on the federal government’s Medicaid program. This money is meant to aid the disabled and vulnerable and to support low-income families. However, millions of these dollars are being redirected before they ever reach the people they are meant to support.

About $41.5 billion of Medicaid funds are sent to states through the Home and Community-Based Services “waiver” program.This waiver allows those eligible for Medicaid — individuals suffering from a disability, illness or other affliction — to use these funds to pay for in-home care, as opposed to enrolling in an institution. These in-home services are often provided by family members or friends, or other local, independent providers. Medicaid payments are sent directly to these providers on behalf of their Medicaid-eligible “client.”

 

This Isn’t Working: How Michigan’s Licensing Laws Hurt Workers and Consumers

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The Declaration of Independence lists the “pursuit of happiness” as one of Americans’ “unalienable rights.” For most, this includes the ability to pursue a vocation of their choice. But occupational licensure laws stand in the way of many people trying to exercise this right. For too many people, the right to pursue their dreams has been halted by governments that require them to jump through hoops, pay fees and meet other often arbitrary and inconsistent requirements.

This report gathers data on every occupational license in Michigan. It describes the impact and costs of licensure laws, as documented in the empirical research that has been conducted on this issue. It explains how and why licensing requirements are typically created, but also outlines some of the fundamental problems with a broad licensing regime. Finally, it compares Michigan’s licensing requirements to those of other states and makes recommendations for how the state could reform occupational licensure for the benefit of job-seekers and entrepreneurs and for the state’s economy as a whole.

Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling: A 2016 Update

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Introduction

Since 2008 the Mackinac Center for Public Policy — and more recently in conjunction with the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation — has worked to estimate the degree to which cigarettes are smuggled into and out of American states. Our research, and that of other scholars too, suggests that smuggling is a rampant problem, particularly in states with high cigarette excise taxes.

Unintended and unforeseen consequences are a frequent problem in public policy. Few politicians realize when they vote for higher excise taxes that doing so may dramatically increase cigarette-related crime, such as smuggling. These crimes not only deprive local and state governments of tax revenues, they also tend to descend into violence, which produces all sorts of unnecessary damage. Policymakers should take these realities into consideration when contemplating how much to tax cigarettes.

This report analyzes the relationship between cigarette tax rates and cigarette smuggling rates. It relies on the same statistical model used in our previous studies, but uses the latest available data from 2014. New York State once again claims the highest smuggling rate in the nation. In fact, according to our analysis, New Yorkers consume more smuggled cigarettes than they do legally taxed ones. New York state has the highest excise tax rate on cigarettes in the country at $4.35 per pack and New York City adds another $1.50 tax. Arizona, Washington state, New Mexico and Minnesota round out the top five states for percentage of in-bound smuggling. Michigan ranks 12th, down two positions.

Problems With Estimating the Union Wage Premium

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The “union wage premium” — the amount a union worker makes in wages and salary above a similar nonunion worker — is often used to highlight the potential value of joining a union. Unions claim that if workers unionize, their wages will increase, because allegedly the average union worker makes more than the average nonunion worker. If this were universally true, it seems like a compelling argument for enrolling in a union. However, the decline in union membership rates over the last several decades shows that an increasing number of workers have not been persuaded to join existing unions or organize new ones, suggesting that they are not convinced that becoming a union member will automatically boost their pay.

Some still maintain that union members earn significantly more, on average, than nonunion workers: the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations union says that “union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts” and the U.S. Secretary of Labor claims that union workers make $950 per week compared to nonunion workers’ $750 per week. But these statistics are based on a relatively simplistic view of the data. As this paper will demonstrate, there are significant challenges to using official government data to estimate the size of the union wage premium.

An Evaluation of Michigan's 21st Century Jobs Fund

In 2005, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm launched a project intended to stimulate he state’s economy: the 21st Century Jobs Fund. At the time the state had not yet recovered from the 2001 national recession and was suffering the country’s highest unemployment levels.

After a tough political battle to establish the program and after making a number of compromises, the 21st Century Jobs Fund was created. The program was to be funded from 2006 to 2015, and in the 2013-14 legislative session, under a new governor and Legislature, it was extended until 2019 and provided with $75 million in continued annual funding.

After ten years of existence, this program has received little attention and its effectiveness has never been measured. All government programs should be reviewed regularly, and it is time for a close look at the 21st Century Jobs Fund.

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2016

Click here to view the PDF of the full study.

This is the 14th 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 70 percent of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

Worker's Choice

Freeing unions and workers from forced representation

Where there’s a unionized workplace, there’s forced representation. That’s true regardless of whether a state is right-to-work or not. Even if a union can’t get a worker fired for not paying dues, the worker is still bound by union representation.

A Survey of Michigan's Private Education Sector

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According to data collected by the state, Michigan has 601 private schools that enroll about 113,000 students — about 7 percent of all students in the state. All but 14 of Michigan’s 84 counties have at least one private school operating within their boundaries. Despite the fact that private schools in Michigan are widespread, there is very little publicly available information about them. In response to this need, the Mackinac Center, with the help of the Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools, conducted a survey of private school administrators from all across the state.

School Spending and Student Achievement in Michigan: What's the Relationship?

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Does Michigan devote enough money to primary and secondary education? Do school districts receive enough revenue to ensure the vast majority of enrolled students graduate college or career ready? How much does it cost to provide a quality educational experience? These are the types of questions for which the Michigan Legislature recently paid nearly $400,000 to obtain some answers.

These answers would clearly be helpful to policymakers who determine how many tax dollars to allocate to schools. But these concerns about the adequate level of school funding are based in part on the common assumption that spending more on K-12 schools will generate better academic outcomes. A more fundamental question that policymakers might want to answer before determining the appropriate level of funding for schools is: What is the relationship between school spending and student achievement in Michigan?

That is the question this paper attempts to answer.

To read a response to a critique of this study, click here.

Civil Forfeiture in Michigan: A Review and Recommendations for Reforms

Forfeiture is a practice by which law enforcement transfers assets – cash, vehicles, homes, etc. – from private citizens to the government. Criminal forfeiture occurs after the conviction of a person and is widely-accepted as legitimate.

The problem is with civil forfeiture.

Civil forfeiture occurs outside of the criminal justice system and does not require a conviction of a crime. This has led to instances of abuse in Michigan, which has among the lowest-rated forfeiture laws in the United States. The Mackinac Center believes property should only be transferred from citizens to the government after a criminal conviction is secured.

This study explains how civil forfeiture works, how it differs from criminal forfeiture and what reforms state policymakers should consider in order to protect the rights of Michigan residents.

Bringing Financial Transparency to Michigan's Public Sector Unions

Nathan Mehrens, a labor expert who helped implement financial reporting requirements for private sector unions while serving at the U.S. Department of Labor, explains how Michigan should reform its union transparency laws. Most public sector unions do not have to publicly disclose meaningful financial information, and Mehrens argues that Michigan lawmakers should adopt financial reporting requirements similar to those used by the federal government.

Worker's Choice: Freeing Unions and Workers from Forced Representation

Worker’s Choice provides a method to fix the "free/forced rider" issue that exists in right-to-work states. Without requiring a complete overhaul of collective bargaining laws, this policy can free unions from having to provide services to employees who do not support them, and allow individual employees to represent themselves and negotiate independently with their employers.