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Articles Posted by MichCapCon

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  • Detroit Public Schools Takes Out a Loan to Pay Off Another Loan

    10/09/2015 12:48:34 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 9 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/7/2015 | Tom Gantert
    The depth of the Detroit school district’s financial troubles can be staggering. As of last June, the district owes $238.2 million it borrowed to cover routine operating expenses, a burden that has received some media attention. Another $572 million owed by Detroit Public Schools to a state “authority” within the Michigan Department of Treasury has received less coverage. But some eyebrows were raised recently when DPS went back for another loan from that source on the same day it made payment on an earlier loan. According to state Treasury records, a “Michigan Finance Authority” gave Detroit Public Schools a loan...
  • Wind Energy Mandate Costs Each Family Nearly $4,000

    10/08/2015 1:53:47 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 5 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/6/2015 | Jack Spencer
    A new study from Utah State University found that, as of 2013, Michigan’s renewable energy mandate, enacted in 2008, has cost families and businesses here a bundle: $15.1 billion overall, or $3,830 per family, compared to what we would have experienced without the mandate. According to the study, the economies of all states with a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, have suffered harm. Among the negative effects are a nearly 14 percent decrease in industrial electricity sales, plus losses in both personal income and employment. A key finding was that an estimated 24,369 jobs have been lost in Michigan because...
  • Laying in a Hammock is Illegal at Michigan State University

    10/07/2015 9:56:57 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 22 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/5/2015 | Tom Gantert
    Slinging a hammock between two trees on campus is a criminal offense at Michigan State University, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine. The school is worried about environmental damage to trees.
  • City Manager: 'Prosperity Doesn’t Come From Government; It Comes From Freedom'

    10/07/2015 7:41:30 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 6 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/4/2015 | Anne Schieber
    When cities cry poverty, the organization helping them pursue more resources from state or local taxpayers is often the Michigan Municipal League. It is interesting then to see signs that the lobbying group is doing some self-reflection, in the form of allowing a city manager with a fresh point of view to address the organization's annual meeting. “Prosperity doesn’t come from government. It comes from freedom,” Port Huron City Manager James Freed told league members who gathered in September. Freed gave the group a candid presentation on how pension and retiree health benefits were making it difficult to govern his...
  • Even Compared to Workers With College Degrees, Teachers Are Well Paid

    10/06/2015 1:40:33 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 28 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/4/2015 | Tom Gantert
    The new Dearborn school district superintendent Glenn Maleyko says he is worried about losing his best teachers. Maleyko told the Dearborn Press and Guide there will be a teacher shortage, and the newspaper claims the teacher pay scale is lower than what many professionals earn with a bachelor’s degree. But the U.S. Census data doesn’t back that claim up. The median salary for a person with a bachelor’s degree is $50,450, according to the American Community Survey 2014 put out by the U.S. Census. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the Dearborn school district and nine years of experience...
  • Firm Picked to Evaluate State Education Spending Always Wants More State Education Spending

    10/06/2015 11:08:31 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/4/2015 | Jack Spencer
    The Snyder administration's preliminary pick for a contractor to do a study on whether Michigan spends an “adequate” amount on public schools has a long history of coming to the same conclusion on similar questions: “Not adequate." The company’s 12 most recent state studies have all concluded that spending on public schools should be increased. The record includes a 2013 report which found "inadequate" school spending by the District of Columbia, which year after year spends more per student than all (or nearly all) the 50 states. Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative Republicans committed to buying what is known in...
  • Retired State Police Officer: Forfeiture is 'Big Money' for Law Enforcement Agencies

    10/06/2015 10:07:10 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 12 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/3/2015 | Anne Schieber
    The first time Ted Nelson realized something was wrong with civil asset forfeiture occurred when he was training police officers around the state on the practice. “Many of the narcotics teams were seizing items such as furniture and televisions. I don’t think they were concerned with showing that they were obtained through illegal proceeds,” said Nelson, who was a Michigan State Police officer for 26 years until he retired in 2000. He stays actively engaged in law enforcement policy and speaks publicly for LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Nelson participated in a number of seizures himself and said the civil...
  • Cutting Michigan's Income Tax Would Also Lessen Corporate Welfare Burden

    10/05/2015 6:30:18 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/20/2015 | Jack Spencer
    Michigan lawmakers who would like to cut the state’s personal income tax rate may have found their way eased by a largely overlooked benefit: A rate cut would reduce the amount the state owes to corporations that are benefiting from extensive tax breaks and outright cash subsidies granted by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority during former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration. The state’s liability to these corporations was revealed earlier this year, and shocked lawmakers preparing to adopt a budget for the coming fiscal year. Under a program repealed in 2011, corporations were granted some $9.38 billion in tax credits. The...
  • Parents Complain Students From Adjacent Districts 'Overcrowding' Their Schools

    10/01/2015 11:50:19 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 1 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/30/2015 | Tom Gantert
    A recent story in the Lansing State Journal on a Michigan public school choice program featured parents from two different school districts complaining that the program is causing overcrowded classrooms in their own districts. But data from the Michigan Department of Education show that the complaints are not supported by the historical record. Enrollment at one of those districts has been in decline for the past eight years, while the other has not experienced any significant enrollment increase. The story focused on how the East Lansing and Holt school districts have benefitted from the schools of choice program begun in...
  • Tax Cuts on Sale: Save Up to 10 Percent on Income Tax Rate Cuts

    09/30/2015 8:25:13 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 3 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/26/2015 | James Hohman
    Michigan taxpayers and voters were surprised earlier this year as the bill for business subsidies handed out years ago came due higher than expected. It sent legislators scurrying to figure out what to do about the cost of a corporate welfare program begun in 1995. So far, they have come up empty. Nevertheless, there is one loophole that should be explored. It can lower the expense of these incentives while also making Michigan a more inviting place for businesses. Michigan can reduce the generosity of its existing business subsidies by lowering the state’s personal income tax rate. Before 2012, the...
  • Former Teacher Lionized by Left for Resignation Letter Omitted Key Details

    09/29/2015 9:52:59 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 17 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/26/2015 | Tom Gantert
    n August, Michigan public school teacher Stephanie Keiles became a folk hero when she went public with her story about why she was quitting her job. Keiles had spent nine years as a teacher in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools when she announced in an online essay that she was leaving the profession. The Michigan Education Association promoted her story as did prominent national websites, including The Washington Post and Huffington Post. A Michigan newspaper columnist recited Keiles' claims as if they were the gospel truth as an example of how teachers are not respected. National public schools advocate Diane Ravitch even...
  • University Bans Laying in Hammocks, Cites Tree Damage

    09/25/2015 9:21:48 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 27 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/25/2015 | Tom Gantert
    Slinging a hammock between two trees on campus is a criminal offense at Michigan State University, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine. The school is worried about environmental damage to trees.
  • How You Can Be Prosecuted For Unknowingly Breaking the Law

    09/25/2015 6:45:12 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 41 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/24/2015 | Jack Spencer
    A bill to protect Michiganders from being prosecuted for unknowingly violating thousands of state laws and regulations could soon face a vote in a key committee of the Michigan House of Representatives. House Bill 4713 would restore a standard for defining what constitutes criminal liability. The move would affect numerous state statutes, especially regulatory violations. Under mens rea (Latin for ‘the guilty mind’), more than just the act of violating a law must be considered to establish criminal liability; the intent of the accused person also has to be considered. On Sept. 17 the House Oversight Committee held a hearing...
  • U.S. Chamber Official on Obama Clean Power Plan: 'There Will Be Lawsuits'

    09/24/2015 1:38:04 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 9 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/23/2015 | Jack Spencer
    Some new federal environmental regulations in the works, including those covering energy and water, could have significant implications for the relationship between the states and the federal government, as well as the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. That's the view of William L. Kovacs, the senior vice president for environment and regulatory affairs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In an interview conducted on Sept. 10, Kovacs provided Michigan Capitol Confidential his perspective on these matters. The following are excerpts from that interview. CapCon: What is the Chamber’s position regarding President Barack Obama’s Clean Energy Plan? Kovacs:...
  • Michigan Sales Tax Will Hit Internet Shoppers on Oct. 1

    09/24/2015 12:40:19 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 7 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/22/2015 | Anne Schieber
    Starting Oct. 1, many Internet shoppers in Michigan may see an unusual item on their order summary page — Michigan sales tax. In January of 2015 Gov. Rick Snyder signed the Main Street Fairness Act, which more explicitly defines which out-of-state companies will be compelled to collect Michigan sales tax. It is not yet clear whether the change will affect purchases from the nation's top online retailer, Amazon. By most accounts, Amazon does not have a warehouse or fulfillment center in Michigan and so may be exempt from the new law. The complication will come with third-party sellers on Amazon...
  • Economic Freedom of the World Index: America’s Worrisome Decline

    09/24/2015 10:36:09 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 1 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/24/2015 | Michael LaFaive
    The “Economic Freedom of the World Index” published by the Fraser Institute of Canada measures the degree to which the world’s 157 nations and territories permit voluntary, peaceful economic exchanges between their own citizens and with people in other countries. The most recent index has just been released, and based on data from 2013, it ranks the United States 16th in economic freedom. Given this country’s history and traditions, America should be far and away No. 1; that fact that it does not hold the top slot is yet more evidence of how governance has gone off track in this...
  • Union Ordered to Stop Violating School Employees’ Right-to-Work Law Rights

    09/23/2015 11:49:37 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 5 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/23/2015 | Tom Gantert
    By a unanimous vote on Wednesday, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled that the Michigan Education Association’s attempt to restrict school employees' rights under right-to-work violates state labor law and is an unfair labor practice. The MEA, which exercised the restriction under a so-called August window, is the state’s largest teachers union. It is expected to appeal the decision in the courts. The ruling is the latest development in a 2013 lawsuit brought by four Saginaw public school employees who did not want to be forced to financially support the union as a condition of employment. The August window is...
  • Michigan Taxpayers Pay Union Officials Millions to Do Union Work

    09/23/2015 10:07:23 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 3 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/22/2015 | Jarrett Skorup
    The public school district in Taylor, Michigan is in big trouble financially. It is shedding students and has run significant deficits in recent years due to spending more than it takes in, requiring special oversight from the state. But the district still finds the money to pay four union stewards to do union work on the taxpayer’s dime. More than $108,000 is given up so that the union can enjoy this privilege. The practice is called “release time,” and school districts across the state do it. The arrangement allows union officials, typically the president of the union local, to be...
  • Bye-bye Prevailing Wage Law? Repeal Campaign Turns In 390,000 Signatures

    09/21/2015 11:58:26 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 6 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/20/2015 | Jack Spencer
    A coalition organized to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law achieved a milestone yesterday when it submitted petitions with more than 390,000 signatures to the state elections bureau. If at least 65 percent of those signatures were deemed to be valid signatures of Michigan voters, the question would then go to the Legislature for a quick up or down vote. “Nearly 400,000 voters have signed their names on the dotted line to demand that government spend their tax dollars more wisely,” said Chris Fisher, in a news release. Fisher is vice president of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, the coalition organizing the...
  • Skyrocketing Pension Costs Trigger Parent Angst Over Loss of Teachers

    09/21/2015 10:22:44 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 15 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/19/2015 | Tom Gantert
    At a recent event related to the Grand Ledge school district, teachers and parents expressed concern over the loss of departure of some teachers. A TV station report on the meeting said the district is losing 19 teachers, 12 to retirement. Yet most attendees were unaware that just the increase in the district's costs for the school employee pension system over the past five years could have paid the salaries of about 140 new teachers (not including benefits). To put this context, state figures show that Grand Ledge had 280 teachers in 2013-14. The Grand Ledge school district shares a...
  • Most Americans Unaware Police Can Take Property Without Charges

    09/21/2015 5:48:32 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 19 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/17/2015 | Phil Schlosser
    Findings of a recent poll suggest that most Americans are unfamiliar with civil asset forfeiture laws, a highly controversial policy that lets police and prosecutors seize private property — including cash, vehicles, and homes — without ever convicting the owner of a crime, or in some cases, even arresting the person. In a Huffington Post/YouGov survey released Aug. 28, nearly 3 of every 4 respondents (72 percent) answered no when asked if they had heard of the term “civil asset forfeiture.” A majority wrongly believed that an individual’s property can be seized “only if the person has been charged with...
  • Could a Backroom Political Deal Stop Prevailing Wage Repeal?

    09/18/2015 5:14:41 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/13/2015 | Jack Spencer
    Unions are trying to cut a deal with business groups to prevent a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law, according to a news account out of Lansing. The idea is that business groups would use their influence on Republican lawmakers to halt a repeal measure that is likely to succeed in exchange for the unions dropping a proposed ballot initiative to nearly double the state’s main business tax. Michigan 50-year-old prevailing wage law prohibits the state, local governments and public schools from awarding construction contracts to the lowest bidder unless the contractor agrees to pay union-scale wages on the...
  • School Pension Costs Have Increased by $622 Per Pupil

    09/17/2015 1:57:02 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 8 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/12/2015 | Tom Gantert
    In the spring of 2011, when Gov. Rick Snyder proposed what was characterized as a $470 per pupil reduction in public school funding, media reports described this as so “massive” that it left school officials “in a state of shock.” "This is going to be potentially devastating," declared David Martell, the executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials organization. Yet, those who advocate for spending more on public schools have been nearly silent about a growing and far more severe threat to budgets — the skyrocketing cost of the school employee retirement system. In 2010, the pension system cost...
  • Michigan's Private Sector Economy Firing on All Cylinders

    09/17/2015 12:24:41 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 5 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/14/2015 | Tom Gantert
    Since the end of the Great Recession, nearly every sector of Michigan’s economy has seen significant growth, with a total of 360,500 more private sector jobs in 2014 than in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Michigan went from having 3.87 million jobs in 2009 to 4.18 million jobs in 2014. In 2005 the state was on a transition from a gradual economic decline into what became a very steep one. Since 2010, both employment and the Michigan economy have been on an upswing. The strongest employment growth has been in the professional and business sector (+117,500...
  • Detroit Police Salaries Modest, But Not Peanuts

    09/17/2015 11:09:55 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 6 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/12/2015 | Tom Gantert
    Uniformed rank-and-file officers employed by the Detroit Police Department earned an average of $59,511 in 2014-15, which is more than twice the amount a recent TV report stated as the starting salary for the officers. Detroit Police Chief James Craig recently told WWJ TV that he thinks officers patrolling the city’s streets should be paid more. But the only amount mentioned in the story was a starting salary of $28,000. Michigan Capitol Confidential analyzed Detroit Police pay levels found in salary and contract information received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The lowest pay levels are in...
  • Government Waste in Northern Michigan

    09/11/2015 8:29:21 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 3 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/9/2015 | Anne Schieber
    Emmet County is a vacation and retirement hot spot known for its scenic beauty. If you ask residents what needs fixing, as one recent survey did, they list preserving the area’s natural resources, creating a broader job base, and maintaining the roads. But the Emmet County commissioners appear to have other priorities, high among them borrowing and spending at least $15 million to replace a functioning nonprofit ambulance service and building an observatory for stargazing. Leaders of the commissioners’ own political party are among those expressing concern. “They think they don’t have to be accountable to the public. They think...
  • No Raises For Ten Years? Teachers' Contract Tells a Different Story

    09/11/2015 6:48:53 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 12 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/10/2015 | Tom Gantert
    In a report by Lansing TV station WLNS on a public meeting related to the Grand Ledge public schools, teachers made claims about their pay that don't stand up to scrutiny. The district’s latest teachers union contract expired June 30. The report quoted teachers who said they haven’t had pay raises in 10 years. One described a stipend of up to $4,000 to teach one extra class period a day as “tiny.” The TV station reported: “Some teachers say they haven’t gotten pay increases in 10 years and that’s led some to resign.” That is contradicted by the last union...
  • Every Judge Costs Michigan Taxpayers $450K

    09/10/2015 1:26:39 PM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/9/2015 | Jack Spencer
    “Every judge costs taxpayers $450,000 annually,” says Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is planning to introduce legislation this fall to save money by reducing the number of judges. “That includes everything,” Jones says of the $450,000 figure, “including the cost of the judge’s office. Obviously money goes to waste when some courts’ workloads are too small.” Jones' legislation would execute recent recommendations from the State Court Administrative Office to reduce the total number of Michigan judgeships by six. This is on top of the 45 judgeships the administrative office recommended cutting in 2011...
  • Raise Taxes? State Budget Already Projected to Get $2.7 Billion Extra in Taxes Over Next Three Years

    09/10/2015 10:01:24 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/9/2015 | Tom Gantert
    Michigan Democrats and a new ballot initiative campaign are promoting tax hikes to pay for road repairs. The union-funded Citizens for Fair Taxes is collecting signatures to place on the ballot an increase in the state’s corporate income tax from 6 percent to 11 percent. That would reportedly generate an extra $900 million a year, which the measure earmarks to roads. If the campaign gets the required number signatures, the measure would be placed before state legislators, and if they did not pass it (a virtual certainty) it would then go on the 2016 statewide ballot. Democrats are also pitching...
  • Renewables Just a Hood Ornament on Fossil Fuel Power System

    09/10/2015 6:51:46 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 3 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/8/2015 | Jack Spencer
    General Electric Co. and the Environmental Protection Agency know better than most that renewable energy sources — which are the recipients of billions of dollars of taxpayer largesse in many forms — are in the end dependent on fossil fuels. In a document submitted to the EPA on June 25, 2012, GE urged the agency to keep this fossil fuel dependency in mind when considering emissions standards: "However, if flexible generation assets, such as gas turbines, are not available, these renewable technologies will not be deployed. In other words, gas turbines are an essential component of renewable energy sources’ ability...
  • Lawmakers Raising Cigarette Taxes are Well-Intentioned but Misguided

    09/09/2015 3:28:49 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 10 replies
    Mackinac Center for Public Policy ^ | 9/9/2015 | Michael LaFaive
    Legislation permitting counties to increase the excise tax on cigarettes was approved by the California Senate Thursday, Aug. 27. Another bill — introduced the day before — would hike the state excise tax by $2.00 per pack. The state legislature should prevent both bills from passing. If the local excise tax option is adopted, the law will almost assuredly lead to higher excise tax burdens in some if not most counties. (Counties would need to have to submit an increase to a public vote.) This will increase price differentials between counties (and differentials with other states and nations) and invariably...
  • The Worst Performing School District in the U.S. Says It Has Only One 'Ineffective' Administrator

    09/09/2015 1:06:29 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 12 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/7/2015 | Tom Gantert
    There was just one bad apple among the 171 members of the Detroit public school district’s leadership corps, if the district’s most recent evaluations of its principals, superintendents and administrators are accurate. Despite being called “the nation’s lowest-performing urban school area” by Gov. Rick Snyder earlier this year, just one of its 171 managers was judged to be “ineffective.” The evaluations are for the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year available. There were 96 officials given the highest rating of “highly effective;” 68 were rated “effective,” while six were deemed to be “minimally effective.” Plus the single “ineffective” administrator....
  • You’re in the 1 Percent

    09/09/2015 9:56:16 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/8/2015 | Jarrett Skorup
    The Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” recently ran a piece titled, “What it’s like to be a part of the world’s richest 1 percent, in 15 incredible photos.” This features photos of a man floating in a swimming pool on top of a skyscraper, an in-home cinema, maids, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a patient about to undergo plastic surgery, a personal chef at a luxury lodge and a gated community. The article is about a new photo collection which is attempting to draw more attention to wealth inequality. But those protesting about this issue in America may...
  • Democratic Staffer: Homeschooling Lobby 'Scary', Not Rational

    09/04/2015 11:25:04 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 54 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/3/2015 | Tom Gantert
    The left-leaning nonprofit ProPublica recently ran an article on home schooling that opened by relating an anecdote from 2003. It tells of a 19-year-old man in New Jersey who weighed just 45 pounds and was found rummaging through a neighbor’s garbage. The explanation for how such a thing could happen is delivered by a state politician who says, “I was told it was because he was homeschooled.” The story, co-published on the liberal, then quotes Ellen Heinitz, who is the legislative director for a Democratic state representative from Detroit, about her experience with a national homeschooling lobbying group called...
  • Schoolchildren, Teachers, Taxpayers Harmed When Pension Managers Assume Too Much

    09/04/2015 8:58:51 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 4 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/2/2015 | James Hohman
    State law requires the managers of Michigan’s school employee retirement system to base annual pension contributions on an assumption that its investments will generate an average return of around 8 percent per year. If the actual returns don’t reliably meet or beat that level over time, it means contributions into the pension fund will be insufficient to pay for the retirement benefits of employees. The result is a long term unfunded liability that taxpayers eventually have to pay. Michigan’s school pension system has put taxpayers on the hook for a $26.5 billion unfunded liability. The 6.5 percent return earned by...
  • State’s Faltering District Managers All Given High Rankings

    09/04/2015 6:00:54 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/2/2015 | Tom Gantert
    Earlier this year, a group investigating reform options for Detroit’s public schools recommended that the state's Education Achievement Authority (EAA) be ended. The EAA was created in 2011 to take over management of the state's lowest-performing schools — which currently means 12 schools in Detroit. The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren wrote in its March report: “Fifteen years after the state took over our school system, three years after the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) took control of the city’s lowest-performing schools, academic achievement remains tragically low, by far the worst of any big city in the country.” When...
  • Michigan Leads the Country in Unemployment Recovery

    09/03/2015 7:51:53 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 7 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/1/2015 | Tom Gantert
    Since the end of the Great Recession, Michigan has experienced the largest decline in unemployment of any state, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Michigan’s unemployment rate has fallen 9.6 points from its June 2009 high. The rate was 14.9 percent then, while the current rate is 5.3 percent (as of July). The state also leads the nation in the percentage decline of the number of people who are unemployed — a 66 percent drop over that same time period. Indiana’s unemployment rate fell six points, the nation’s second-largest decline after Michigan. Idaho saw a 55...
  • Unions Should Get Serious About Pension Underfunding

    09/02/2015 11:45:11 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 13 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/1/2015 | James Hohman
    Grand Rapids’ public bus system, The Rapid (or Interurban Transit Partnership), and its union are negotiating over a plan to freeze and close its employee retirement system. Union president Larry Hanley is adamant that the plan remain open. "This is not contract negotiation; this is a political attack on working people with no good financial reason. It's not that the agency's in trouble," Hanley told the Grand Rapids Press. "The system's not in any state of crisis. The benefits have been established for many years." It is discouraging when union officials that are supposed to be protecting their members ignore...
  • The Environmentalist Rhetoric Guide

    09/02/2015 7:30:21 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/1/2015 | Jack Spencer
    Market research surveys commissioned by one of the nation’s largest environmentalist groups advises activists to “talk about yourselves as conservationists — not environmentalists,” “do not make global warming/climate change the primary rationale for conservation,” “do not use the threat of ‘sprawl’ unless with core supporters,” and “do not focus on ‘green’ jobs as a primary rationale for conservation.” These quotes are found in a pair of documents, one from 2004 and one from 2013, that expose what might be called the environmental movement’s political messaging intended for public consumption. The documents are based on research commissioned by The Nature Conservancy,...
  • Government Price Controllers Can’t Make Up Their Minds

    09/01/2015 6:15:16 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/31/2015 | Jarrett Skorup
    Gas stations have heavy competition. There are stations all over the place and everyone publicly displays their prices. Owners operate on very thin profit margins, and there is lots of incentive to keep prices as low as possible. Almost everyone uses gas and nobody likes paying higher prices. So when prices increase, politicians on both sides of the aisle demand and promise investigations. Oil companies are roundly demonized. (Of course, nobody is sending them a thank-you card when prices come down). When it comes to crops, government bureaucrats take a different approach. When the price of products like corn, soybeans,...
  • Teacher Left Union and Has No Regrets

    08/31/2015 11:19:09 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/29/2015 | Anne Schieber
    Rosemary Stawasz wasn't sure what Michigan's right-to-work law, enacted at the end of 2012, would mean for her. Stawasz, a special education teacher with the Van Buren Intermediate School District, worried about what would happen if she exercised her new right to not be forced to financially support the local teachers union. Under the previous law, paying union dues or fees was a condition of employment. Now, she had a choice. Educators can find out more about that choice at “I have had no problems at all," she said of the decision she made to leave the union. "The...
  • House Passes Package Repealing Outdated Laws

    08/31/2015 6:09:48 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 5 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/28/2015 | Geneva Ruppert
    There are over 3,000 criminal statutes in Michigan, but a recent unanimous vote in the Michigan House will trim that number, eliminating several outdated laws in the first step toward simplifying the state’s enormous penal code. Overcriminalization has recently come into the spotlight in Michigan as part of a larger movement pursuing criminal justice reform. In 2014, the Mackinac Center and the Manhattan Institute published a study on the topic, Overcriminalizing the Wolverine State. The study advocated for clarification and consolidation of the current criminal code, guidelines to govern the creation of new criminal offenses and enactment of a default...
  • That's a 'Renewable Energy' Job? If You Say So

    08/28/2015 11:45:13 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/26/2015 | Tom Gantert
    The statewide news site MLive recently published a column by the owner of a solar panel installation company claiming the state’s renewable energy sector has produced an estimated 82,600 jobs. Dean Berden, owner of DB Solar in Snover, wrote: “In recent years, Michigan's renewable sector has already seen tremendous growth, with more than an estimated 82,600 jobs in renewable power industries, energy efficiency and other conservation services.” The column links to a report called, “Powering Up Michigan," and attributes the 82,600 jobs number to a 2010 Bureau of Labor and Statistics report. ForTheRecord says: That particular Bureau of Labor Statistics...
  • Protecting Detroit School Choice is Critical

    08/27/2015 11:03:54 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/25/2015 | Audrey Spalding
    This fall, legislators will likely consider a major proposal billed to improve public education in the city of Detroit. The proposal will contain two main components: a financial bailout for Detroit Public Schools and the centralization of all public schools in the city — both conventional and charter schools. It’s clear that DPS is in dire financial straits. The district is slowly being bankrupted by irresponsible pension costs and is projected to have an accumulated deficit of more than $300 million in 2016. In total, since the late 1990s, DPS has accumulated more than $1.6 billion in general obligation debt....
  • Myths and Exaggerations About Teacher Pay

    08/27/2015 8:45:53 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 28 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/24/2015 | Tom Gantert
    Rachel Brougham recently left her job as the assistant news editor of the Petoskey News-Review but continues to write for the daily newspaper. In her most recent column published Friday, Brougham celebrates public school teachers, but does so by repeating some common media myths and exaggerations about teacher compensation. Several statements in Brougham’s column deserve a closer look. Brougham: “Many starting salaries are barely $30,000.” It’s rare to find a teacher’s starting salary at “barely $30,000” in Michigan. At the Benton Harbor Area Schools, a starting teacher with a bachelor's degree gets $31,582. The Eau Claire school district located near...
  • Michigan’s Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

    08/26/2015 9:02:58 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/24/2015 | Jonathan Moy
    In 2013, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill expanding Medicaid, a core component of the federal Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Given Republican control of the state House, Senate and governor’s office, the move surprised many. Two years earlier, referring to another ACA provision (the insurance exchange), Chuck Moss, then the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said GOP lawmakers would “rather be caught sacrificing to Satan than voting for Obamacare.” Lost in the hubbub surrounding the expansion bill was a section requiring hospitals that were contracted by the state to provide managed care services under Medicaid to offer “healthy...
  • Teacher Union Has Lost 34,000 Members in Last 10 Years

    08/26/2015 7:11:04 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 9 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/23/2015 | Tom Gantert
    In 2005, the Michigan Education Association had 130,882 voting (active) members that were teachers and support professionals. According to recent disclosure documents, in 2015 the state's largest teachers union has 96,561 members, a decline of about 34,000 since 2005, or 26 percent. The numbers on the most recent MEA membership came from the Portage Education Association’s website which cites MEA Secretary Treasurer Rick Trainor as its source. The numbers significantly differ from the MEA’s federal report from the previous year. The MEA didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on its overall decline in membership. There are four main reasons...
  • Teacher Union Toys with Members Wanting Out, Demands Requests Go to 'Stealth' P.O. Box

    08/25/2015 1:20:40 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 7 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/22/2015 | Tom Gantert
    In an apparent effort to make it even more difficult or even stop school employees from exercising their right under right-to-work to not pay union dues or fees, the state’s largest teachers union has quietly set up an obscure post office box address to which members must send the required opt-out paperwork. It's P.O. Box 51 East Lansing, MI 48826. Based on a letter the Michigan Education Association sent to members who had tried to get out, and discussions with some of them, resignation requests sent to the regular union headquarters address will not be honored. An extensive search of...
  • Have Schools Faced 'Seemingly Permanent Funding Cuts'?

    08/25/2015 9:26:53 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 7 replies
    Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/21/2015 | Tom Gantert
    The August edition of the Ann Arbor Observer periodical weighed in on the contract dispute between the Ann Arbor school district and its teachers. It wrote that the school board was “asserting the union’s contract has to change to reflect new state laws and seemingly permanent funding cuts. ...” Except, state revenue to the Ann Arbor school district increased a combined $23.5 million over the last four state budgets compared to the 2010-11 school year. Of that amount, $3.7 million would have been for educating a cumulative total of 408 extra students over those four years. The rest was from...
  • Number of Michigan Schools Privatizing Services Grows to 70 Percent

    08/25/2015 6:51:34 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 8/23/2015 | James Hohman
    There are more Michigan public schools contracting out food, custodial or transportation services than ever, according to the Mackinac Center’s latest survey of school districts. This year, 70.8 percent of school districts use private-sector vendors to clean buildings, get kids to school, or cook and serve school meals. This is up from 66.6 percent the previous year. Getting more of the private sector involved in a supporting role in school districts is a long-term trend. In 2001, only 31 percent of districts contracted out these services and it took a decade before more than half of districts contracted out. Our...