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. … more
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. … more
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. … more
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. … more
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. … more
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?
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. … more
At present, Michigan’s vast, disorganized criminal law inherently places the Wolverine State’s residents at risk of unintentionally violating a growing array of regulatory crimes that are difficult to discover and understand. The complexity of administrating such a criminal code threatens to divert scarce resources away from the enforcement of serious violent and property crimes. This study analyzes the size and scope of Michigan’s criminal law and makes policy recommendations aimed at curbing this “overcriminalization.” … more
Approximately 75 percent of districts with contracts subject to the right-to-work law removed language that would require employees to financially support a union as a condition of employment. Both legal and policy questions are raised by the remaining 25 percent of districts, which kept mandatory dues language in one way or another, despite having a contract that took effect or was modified after the law's effective date.
The study describes five issues with these contracts. Twenty-three contracts made no apparent changes and kept mandatory dues language. Eight districts created a separate agreement to require mandatory dues payment. Fifteen contracts were ratified before they would be subject to the right-to-work law, but then didn’t take effect until much later. Five contracts made only the mandatory dues language immediately effective, while delaying the rest of the contract. Finally, at least six districts have modified parts of their contract without making the rest of it compliant with the right-to-work law. … more
On Aug. 5 Michigan voters will be asked to approve or reject Proposal 1, which would modify the state’s personal property tax. The legislation that would go into effect if Proposal 1 were approved by voters creates three new exemptions for certain businesses that are currently subject to the personal property tax; it does not eliminate the personal property tax. Commercial and industrial businesses with less than $80,000 of personal property will be exempt, and, eventually, all manufacturing personal property will be exempt. These exemptions amount to an estimated $600 million tax cut when fully implemented.
The package of bills includes a mechanism for reimbursing local government units for the revenue lost from these new exemptions. The state would set aside a portion of the statewide Use tax revenue, and use this revenue to reimburse local governments. It is estimated that local governments will be reimbursed for the entirety of the revenue lost due to the personal property tax cuts.
The state would also levy a new, but relatively small, tax on manufacturing personal property that qualifies for one of the exemptions described above, except the small parcel exemption. The state estimates this to raise $117.5 million, making the overall net tax cut of the legislation package worth about $500 million. … more
Some districts negotiated with their unions to add language stating that if circumstances changed, pages of prohibited language would take immediate effect. Others simply changed the word “teacher” in order to keep the prohibited language but have it apply to other staff members. Finally, some districts appear to have kept prohibited language without explanation.
This study includes further examples and lists of districts that kept the prohibited language in their contracts. As a solution, penalties could be added to the collective bargaining reform laws in order to encourage district compliance. … more
This study finds that students enter districts that have higher graduation rates and higher test scores. On average, Schools of Choice students chose districts with higher pupil-teacher ratios, lower expenditures per pupil and higher average teacher salaries.
During the first year of charter school operation, students demonstrated significant learning gains, with some grades posting academic growth far above the average Michigan student. … more
Conviction of a crime traditionally required a combination of a wrongful act and criminal intent. But frequently the criminal code is used for regulatory purposes, and those laws often omit a requirement that the prosecution prove the existence of criminal intent for a conviction to occur. Consequently, individuals can be charged, convicted and imprisoned for committing crimes without possessing a culpable state of mind — often for behavior a reasonable person would not think of as criminal.
The policy brief proposes a reform that would clarify the element of intent in criminal statutes. If the Legislature enacts a criminal statute that is silent on intent, a default intent provision would be incorporated. Such a reform could make for a more orderly criminal justice system and protect the rights of individuals. … more
Electricity Choice Policies in Michigan: Comment on "Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions: Electric Choice"
Between the years 2000 and 2012 two distinct changes emerged. Between 2000 and 2008 new suppliers were allowed to start entering the Michigan market and competing with incumbent utilities. Between 2008 and 2012 competition was restricted to guarantee a 90 percent market share for the largest utilities. The analysis of these two periods suggests that market competition tends to bring innovation and lower prices to Michigan electricity consumers, while monopolistic policies tend to raise prices. Michigan should once again embrace opening its electricity market to more entrants to see if they can perform better than the incumbent firms, which will drive down prices for electricity consumers. Michigan allowed such competition to start to emerge during its brief era of Full Customer Choice, and the early results were promising. The initial results from a more tightly regulated and protectionist experiment have been by contrast disappointing.
A video recording of the January 22, 2014 Issues and Ideas Forum featuring the author discussing the topic of expanding the electricity market can be viewed here. … more
These results matters because TTB rankings are used to impose consequences on low-ranking schools. This study suggests that Michigan should look at how other states rank schools in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of penalizing schools that serve lower-income students. It also makes the case that a choice-based accountability system is preferred, as it would allow students to escape schools that are not serving their needs and reduce the risk of penalizing undeservedly low-ranked schools. … more
The study considers several factors, including potential enrollees that are not considered in typical enrollment projections: uninsured people who are already eligible for Medicaid but have not yet enrolled, low-income, privately insured individuals who would switch to Medicaid, and childless adults and others who live below the poverty line and who would now qualify based on the broader definitions of the expansion.
The study determines that a Medicaid expansion would likely shift many insurance costs to state taxpayers, while other studies have found that as many as 50 percent or 60 percent of new enrollees following Medicaid expansions dropped existing private insurance to do so. Further, both local and federal studies have indicated that Medicaid often delivers substandard health outcomes and access to medical services. Therefore, lawmakers should think twice before widening the program's scope. … more
The study examines the amendment to the state constitution that proposes to require a two-thirds supermajority vote of both the Michigan House and Senate, or a simple majority vote of the people in a November election, to impose new state taxes or increase any state taxes that currently require only a majority vote of the Legislature. The study concludes that Proposal 5 is likely to provide additional protection against state tax increases, though it may be appropriate to ensure state lawmakers take further steps to ensure the original intent of the proposal.
The Policy Brief was authored by Michael D. LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. … more
The study examines the claim that local control will diminish if Proposal 1 passes and Public Act 4 is nullified. Public Act 4 had provided expanded powers to state-appointed emergency managers of local governments and school districts that are in a state of serious “fiscal stress or “fiscal emergency.” The study determined that the question in Michigan has not been whether state-appointed managers or court-appointed receivers may replace local elected officials in running a local unit of government; they have been able to do so for decades. The only question is whether state government will participate in the effort to avoid local fiscal insolvency and how it will do so.
The Policy Brief was authored by James M. Hohman, assistant director of Fiscal Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. … more
The proposed constitutional amendment would authorize the forced unionization of tens of thousands of home-based caregivers in Michigan, allowing the Service Employees International Union to continue skimming millions of dollars in dues from Medicaid stipends meant to help Michigan’s most vulnerable residents. A line-by-line review of Proposal 4 shows that it would not provide any programs or services to in-home care recipients that are not already available, including any improved care, new options for care recipients or taxpayer cost savings. … more
The study examines how the proposed constitutional amendment would enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution, which would allow government union collective bargaining agreements to invalidate numerous state laws meant to improve the quality of public services and would likely negate a projected $1.6 billion in annual taxpayer savings.
The Policy Brief was co-authored by Vernuccio and other Mackinac Center analysts: Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright, Executive Vice President Michael J. Reitz and Assistant Fiscal Policy Director James M. Hohman. Also co-authoring was Paul Kersey, director of labor policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. … more
The proposed constitutional amendment would mandate a 25 percent renewable energy standard for Michigan by 2025. The policy brief estimates the cost of the mandates using the State Tax Analysis Modeling Program – or STAMP – to determine the economic impact on Michigan. They determine that the ballot measure would impose higher electricity prices and economic costs than are sustainable or environmentally friendly. … more
These are mostly injectable drugs for cancer and other important therapies, and they are frequently produced by generic drugmakers. These drugs are not dispensed by community pharmacies, but rather administered by health professionals in clinical settings.
Currently proposed solutions are unlikely to address the crisis satisfactorily. Congress appears ready to give more power to the FDA, but making FDA regulations more onerous will not alleviate the current shortage of crucial medicines.
A more promising approach is to make it easier for competitors to enter the market in response to forthcoming shortages. In general, this means reducing and ultimately removing the FDA’s monopoly on the approval of drugs for medical use. Shifting these medicines to Medicare Part D insurance may also stabilize supply by helping ensure manufacturers receive adequate compensation for the medicine, even as taxpayers are protected from escalating costs. … more
Last year, a state Liquor Control Advisory Rules Committee was charged with developing alcohol control reform proposals. Some critics, however, have cautioned that the state’s present alcohol laws are necessary to protect public health. This Policy Brief examines the health and safety effects of alcohol regulations like Michigan’s. … more
Michigan Public School Employee Retirement Plans
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. … more
in Need of Reform
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. … more
Despite increased spending in Michigan public schools, districts regularly face tough choices allocating their resources. This study surveys the privatization of the three major noninstructional services: food, custodial and transportation services. The findings are that over half of public schools have privatized at least one of these services; what is more, about 93 percent report satisfaction with the private-sector services they receive, which spells progress towards improving services while spending less. … more
In this Policy Brief, the author analyzes state pension data to determine whether state taxpayers have saved money as a result of the switch. … more
No area of public policy in Michigan is more in need of fresh thinking than the relationship between government and its employees. With Michigan’s recurring government budget struggles, and with a new Legislature and governor espousing a commitment to performance, efficiency and accountability in government, a new labor law for government employees is imperative.
This report outlines a variety of ways the Michigan Legislature can address the damaging impact of PERA. … more
Virtual learning is not for every student, but it’s not science fiction, either. Right now in Michigan, it’s being used by thousands of students in hundreds of virtual courses in urban, rural and suburban school districts. In fact, Michigan has been seen as a national leader in virtual learning.
This study analyzes the financial costs and academic benefits of virtual learning, and it explores how this innovation could further benefit Michigan public school students. … more
Michigan is blessed with a wealth of the human and natural resources integral to building vibrant commerce and vigorous communities in the 21st century. At the moment, however, counterproductive public policies have made it harder for our industries to compete nationally and internationally and have reduced our state’s attractiveness to investors and entrepreneurs.
In addition, Michigan is not immune to the gradual erosion of equity and basic human freedom that accompanies a steady growth in the power and scope of government. Related to this, our government’s ability to properly perform many critical functions, including education, has been jeopardized by policymakers’ attempts to do too many things. This lack of focus has even led to confusion among policymakers over whether government exists to serve the people or vice versa.
There’s a lot of work to do to reverse this, but there’s good news. Once growth- and freedom-friendly policies are in place, recovery is likely to occur much more quickly than most people imagine.
For policymakers and voters serious about restoring freedom and economic vitality in the Great Lakes State, the Mackinac Center presents the following 101 recommendations.
This report is a compendium of work authored by Mackinac Center policy analysts and compiled by Senior Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh. The brief recommendations inevitably omit some nuance and detail. These are provided more fully in the online articles cited with each recommendation. … more
The largest impetus for contracting is cost savings. The survey found that first-year contracts alone are expected to save districts $16.7 million cumulatively. … more
This paper reviews MPSERS and MSERS pension and retiree medical benefits and confirms many of the published concerns* related to the level of benefits provided and the associated fiscal challenges facing Michigan taxpayers in both the short and long term.
*Citations provided in the study’s main text. … more
Rather than attempting to regulate insurance company and individual behavior, Michigan legislators would much better serve the people they represent by examining why insurance premiums are so high in the first place, in order to address the problem at its source. A careful study of Michigan’s insurance market and the regulations governing it indicates that no-fault insurance and the legislative requirement for individuals to purchase unlimited personal injury protection are two important reasons for the increased costs of providing insurance coverage in Michigan. The good news is that it is possible to reduce these costs and reduce the number of drivers who take the risk of violating the law and do not purchase insurance. … more
A lower court's interpretation of what constitutes a "public record" under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act would shield criminal and other improper government activities from public scrutiny, according to this "friend of the court" brief jointly submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Press Association.
Click here to download the PDF of this amicus brief. This news release explains the context of the case.
Following the filing of this brief, the Mackinac Center and MPA have submitted two supplemental briefs to the Court. The first alerted the Court to a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling that is relevant to this case. The second supplemental brief brings up recent examples of how the Appeals Court’s disastrous ruling has been used by school districts to deny FOIA requests and potentially hide improper activities. Read the news release for more information.
The Mackinac Center's original amicus brief for the Appeals Court hearing of this case, then named Howell Education Association v. Howell Board of Education, is available here. … more
The Mackinac Center’s brief urges the Michigan Supreme Court to hold that the judiciary need not defer to administrative agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes. Alternatively, because Michigan courts (unlike federal courts) have not determined that agency rules created through formal adjudication are equivalent to rules created through notice-and-comment rulemaking, the Court could hold simply that there is no judicial deference to rules created through adjudication, leaving aside the question of deference to notice-and-comment rules.
The Michigan Supreme Court decided the case in July 2008. The justices held that the rulings of state agencies should not receive deference from the courts and that the Michigan judiciary hence plays an integral role in reviewing the legality of agency actions. The ruling places a direct check on the power of state agencies to interpret and to act upon laws passed by the Michigan Legislature.
The decision is a landmark in Michigan jurisprudence, particularly since it diverges from federal jurisprudence, which grants almost unlimited power to federal agencies in implementing laws passed by Congress. The court's ruling was substantially in agreement with the arguments presented in this brief. … more
Readers may view a supplemental video of Russ Harding interviewing Alan Taylor of Hart Enterprises. … more
Replacing Michigan’s New Taxes With Budget Reductions: Curing $1.358 Billion in Overspending With 55 Specific Recommendations
Internationally Renowned Superintendent Angus McBeath Chronicles His District’s Successes and Failures
NOT AVAILABLE IN PRINT … more