Constant tax cuts killing Pure Michigan

A few years ago Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation produced a powerful “Pure Michigan” video, looking to make that “brand” work not just to promote tourism, but capture the whole of Michigan’s society and economy. There was no Tim Allen voice-over, just piano and stirring violins, incredible visuals, and some statements scrolling over Michigan scenes:

  • “World’s longest freshwater coastline” ran over a movie of Great Lakes shoreline and kids spilling out of a cottage and leaping into a lake.
  • “No. 1 public university in the country” ran over images of life, learning, and research labs at U-M.

As the music swells, other visuals showed schoolkids looking in awe at the Detroit Institute of Art’s Diego Rivera mural, touching the trains at The Henry Ford. There was a young woman gazing up in awe at the skyscrapers in Detroit, a classic car motoring down the open road.

It’s a real heart-tugging video, because it speaks to that ideal of Pure Michigan that we all have tasted, know and love.

Part of me was getting teary eyed, but another part of me was angry and frustrated.

Because almost all of things that are true about Michigan in the video—that define our state and our lives in it -- are also degraded, diminished, and at some serious risk, due to years of neglect and disinvestment. I wanted to stop and say: “Wait, don’t jump—that lake might have fecal matter.” The “Number 1 public university in the country” now costs twice as much and is out of reach for many. Our arts and cultural institutions have been defunded. And certainly be careful driving – that open road is full of potholes.

These are the same feelings Michigan citizens shared as they spoke to us in the new interactive report and video: “Michigan Dream at Risk.” Their story details the continued long-term degradation into 2014 of key Michigan assets the public associates with Pure Michigan, and the effects of this disinvestment on family incomes and opportunity.

Citizens told us Michigan is not where it needs to be economically, not because we don’t have a good enough business climate, but because we’ve been tearing down, not building up, the things that are Pure Michigan...that Michigan’s people care most about…and they aren’t happy about it.

Our Michigan Economic Center’s citizen research included focus groups, surveys and documentary journalism including a Pure Michigan-style video in which citizens share their hopes (and frustrations) over the direction of their state. This research found particularly strong citizen associations and emotional attachment with Michigan attributes and values that they feel also underpin economic success, including:

  • Great schools and affordable higher education, where hard work creates a path to new opportunity and a better job,
  • Roads and communities that aren’t falling apart, that citizens can be proud of and that are great places to raise a family,
  • Clean waters, parks and special outdoor places where citizens can escape with their families.

The report also documents and illustrates the “facts of the case” --from the early 2000s up until this very year – the disinvestment, degradation and concomitant citizen frustration with the diminished condition of assets they view as key “pillars” of Michigan’s economic prosperity. These include:

  • Roads: "Worst roads in the nation," a 15 percent drop in state investment in transportation systems from 2004 to 2014.
  • City services: "4,000 fewer firefighters and police in Michigan communities". Local revenue sharing has declined 31 percent from 2004 to 2014
  • Children: 16 percent decline in K-12 investment from 2004 to 2014, leading to elimination of arts, music, larger classes, and diminished quality
  • Higher education: "College tuitions have doubled," and a 29-percent real investment drop in higher education funding from 2004 to 2014
  • Outdoors: "Miles of polluted rivers has doubled; beach closures are up 22% over past 5 years." Conservation funding down 6 percent from 2004 to 2014.
  • Income: “Biggest fall in family incomes in the nation.” Michigan has fallen from 19th to 37th in the nation in personal incomes from 2004 to 2014

There is plenty of blame to go around for this diminished Michigan Dream. But the biggest culprit is not the Great Recession, but the wrongheaded belief among leaders for many years that cutting taxes improves the economy.

Michigan’s long march towards the Emerald City of “business-friendliness” has crippled the things that really make Michigan go: Great schools, affordable universities, good roads, clean water, and communities you can be proud to live in. This tax cutting mania now finds Michigan almost $8 billion dollars below the self-imposed Headlee limit we once were bumping up against. That money – if we had it – would fix all our roads, keep college affordable, rebuild our schools and communities. But we decided not to do these things.

It is absolutely true that the current budget takes some baby steps towards reversing these trends – mostly in the areas of pre-K and higher education. But our leaders are still punting on some of our biggest challenges – and public embarassments – like the condition of our roads, and the need to rework the way we pay for basic community services like fire, water and police – a crisis that is coming everywhere , soon – as noted in Phil Power’s Bridge column.

The Michigan Dream At-Risk report tells us that in the view of Michigan citizens, we have miles to go to make Pure Michigan more than an idealized marketing campaign; and we won’t make headway until the people of Michigan insist that their representatives act to rebuild the state they love and the things they care most about.

That is why our report is designed to be interactive, and includes elements such as videos and visuals that can be shared through social media, and opportunities for citizens to share information and sign up to work with groups in their interest area who are advocating for change.

To drive change we have got to connect the “facts” of the case to real human stories and the emotional connection we all have to the state we love. I hope you will use the report and the video to put pressure on our leaders and legislators to invest in and build up what makes this state special, and go economically.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

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Mike R
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:03am
Thank you, Mr. Austin, for having the courage to fight conventional wisdom with facts! The truth is that while tax cuts may sometimes spur business growth, the fruits of that growth typically benefit the few and rarely translate into improvement in the general welfare. It galls me that the legislature bailed out of Lansing for the summer (aren't these many of the same people who bash teachers as overpaid and underworked because they have two months off??) without funding road repair (note "repair", not the "improvement" that is really needed) yet continues to explore ways to cut taxes further. How long will we continue these navel-gazing experiments in John Maynard Keynes vs. Milton Friedman economics while roads and bridges fall down around our ears, schools can't afford to educate, and our environment poisons us?
Brian Mackie
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:05am
Very well said, Mr. Austin. Thank you. We have watched a slow-motion downward spiral in our state. Many of the elected officials who still espouse the lower taxes at any cost mantra know better. They cannot bring themselves to do the right thing. There are no new profiles in courage to be written about our legislators in Lansing. As long as candidates for office see losing an election as the worst thing that could happen, there is no true leadership. The middle class/working class is not the problem in Michigan. It has always been the engine that makes this state go. The frustration that many Michiganians feel stems from knowing that we could do better, but knowing also that the will and courage are lacking. Brian Mackie
Jan Barney Newman
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:24am
Pay attention Michigan leaders and take action! This piece represents the views of many thoughtful Michiganders.
Jim H
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:26am
Without question Michigan has fallen short on funding the infrastructure that we all rely on. There was a time when funding for roads, highways, parks and local government not only kept pace, but looked to the future. What happened over the past 50 or so years was not a lack of taxes, but a huge shift in where our tax dollars are going. The biggest governmental growth industries are now social services, education and prisons. If anything is left over, maybe we can finance some infrastructure.
Sun, 07/13/2014 - 1:10pm
Jim H and have it right. The problem is our social welfare state, where the support of the entitlements has crowded out support of our infrastructure. We see this at all levels....state, county, and city.
Fred Swinehart
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:27am
The only way to recover our former place in the nation is to change the complexion of our legislatures. As a former and possibly future Republican, I urge you readers to vote for Democratic challengers who strenuously object to the failed economic policies of our woefully ignorant incumbents.
Allan Blackburn
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:34am
We are so busy catering to 1% that we are neglecting 99% of our citizens. We hire people at less than 32 hours so that we don't have to provide them with benefits or hope for advancement. Then, just when they cannot afford to buy anything anymore, the economy collapses because we failed to provide demand for the products that we produced. When will the smart people come forward and remind the policy makers that the depression of the 30's and the recession of 2008 were created by giving too much to; "too few."
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:35am
Good heavens! What a breath of fresh air. What we need to do is get $'s out of politics and then identify thoughtful and practical leaders and get them elected.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:40am
Speaking of roads I was watching the Tour de France which started in the UK this past weekend and was amazed at the beautiful condition of their roads in contrast to the embarassment that is Michigan's roads. I know they don't have the freeze/thaw cycle that we do but it was still quite a sight to see how nice their roads are.
Steve Dobson
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:40am
You've nailed it, John. Great work. I can feel the momentum shifting in the right direction -- better days ahead!
Jan Barney Newman
Sat, 12/27/2014 - 10:38am
Oh Steve, how one wishes this were true. In this post election period with still no absolute financing of the roads, what are we to think about the future?
Mary Dettloff
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:57am
I recently returned from a vacation, and their interstates are in beautiful condition. So much so, that I remarked on it to my partner as we drove up I-91 on our way to Montreal. There are many observations in this piece that are spot on. What I worry about it is that the average voter has become so accustomed to the deteriorating condition of our state (not just the infrastructure, but in many other ways) that they simply accept it as the way it is and feel hopeless to change it. Let's hope that many, many voters feel an urgency and follow that fire in their bellies and vote for change.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:00am
The problem is not taxes, it is what we do with our taxes. Michigan is not a low tax state. Michigan does not spend less on schools than most other states. Universities are perhaps the most obvious examples where they are spending big bucks for luxury dorms and cafeteria among other expenditures. The other side of the coin is that there are plenty of kids that are not at all worried about the cost at U of M or MSU. These schools have 3 - 4 times the number of applicants than they have space for. They and the State would probably be better off if they went private and didn't take any money from the State. And students that can not afford to go to those schools have plenty of other good choices, particularly the community colleges where they can usually work while going to school. The other big disconnect in our higher education is the shortage of technical job applicants. I believe there are still more than 75,000 jobs available in Michigan that are not being filled. Roads are not in good shape but again we spend road money on passenger trains who serve a tiny fraction of our residents. We spend more road money on bike trails and high priced signs to tell us we are 10 minutes from an interchange. There is a huge difference between the States ability to prioritize and our families and private business. This needs to be fixed before we raise taxes.
Frank Kalinski
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:09am
I would like to see the end of this "subsidy and penalty" system of taxes which try to control our economic behavior; this system has no place in a "free" society. Instead individuals and corporations would pay a small percentage "off the top" of their income each week or period. (Like the withholding taxes we pay from each pay check) There would also be a general "transaction" fee on ALL exchanges of VALUE. (like a sales tax but no protection for "industrial processing or resale or capital gains and so on) which would reflect the support our government provides to economic activity (like roads, buoys in the river, police, building code enforcement...The list is endless) I'm thinking that this would provide good cash flow and be easy to collect as all of these transactions are recorded anyway. The actual percentage collected on each transaction would be very small. (Divide State GDP by budget then divide again by the sheer number of transactions)
Aaron Garn
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:09am
While I appreciate the passion for Michigan (my home as well), I reject the premise of your article. Michigan only prospered with a large tax base for so many years because of the insanely lucrative auto industry. Taxes, unions, unfunded entitlements, and overgrown government have taken their tole on us. The auto industry in Michigan has suffered for many of the same abuses. We, like so many high tax, big government, big entitlement states are far behind the low tax, regrouping, regrowing states in terms of any 'recovery'. Lowering taxes does foster economic growth when other hampers are also removed, and a growing economy is a rising tide that lifts all boats. The 1% argument is a fallacy, created by those that would pit us against each other to our own detriment, and in effort to control us. We have a long way to go in terms of rebuilding our state, and our business infrastructure. We must pay the piper in the present or we will never see a brighter tomorrow.
Mike R
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:47am
Mr. Garn: By "low tax, regrouping, regrowing states", you mean anti-union, no social safety net states like Texas, where average wages are half of what they are here and the percentage of people living in poverty is far higher while boasting far more millionaires than Michigan? Sure, we can have that; personally, I'd rather live in Michigan where there isn't a de facto slavery system. I hope you're one of the 1% whose existence you attempt to deny; if you're not, you're being duped and your pocket is being picked by those you're defending.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 12:34pm
Aaron, Apprenetly you haven't been around long enough to know that Engler left this state a mes when he left. Tax cuts that left this state reeling during the Granholm years and couldn't get anything done with the re-pukes in Lansing and we are still feeling it today and Snyder is no different with tax cuts for business that aren't creating any jobs as we are 49th in job creation as for the job opening if you do some fact checking i'm pretty sure these are minimum wage or even lower for waiting tables,right.Your statement of the 1% fallacy is very ignorant because we all know it's people like deVos and company that are funding the Mack Center for Policy,ALEC which are writing the legislation that Lansing is passing or in some cases not even bring it to the floor for a vote or in some cases like the Medicaid expansion making sure implementation is delayed as people suffer and the same for the state exchange.O can see your a die hard conservative but at least get some real facts on your side and not talking points based on your ideological foundation of conservatism.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 1:09pm
No trickle down is a failure.
Robert Kleine
Fri, 12/26/2014 - 9:27am
There is a lively ongoing debate about the effect of the income tax cuts in Kansas on revenue and on economic growth. The early results point to lower than expected tax revenues and little effect on economic growth- in fact employment growth has actually slowed in Kansas relative to the U.S. and most surrounding states. Defenders of the tax cuts make the case that the 10 states with the lowest taxes have grown faster than the 10 states with the highest taxes. This argument does not really stand up to an depth analysis. Lets look at these states. The ten lowest tax states are: Wyoming, Alaska S. Dakota, Texas, Nevada, Louisiana, Tenn., New Hampshire, Nevada, S. Carolina and Alabama. The average tax burden in these states as a % of income is 7.6%, 2.6 percentage points below the national average . The average per capita income in these 10 states is $41,272 ,about 3% below the national average and 14% below the average in the 10 high tax states. Only 4 of these states have above average per capita income. The 5 states with above average income; Wyoming, Alaska, S. Dakota, and New Hampshire. Three of these states depend on natural resources for much of the revenue and export their tax burden to other states. New Hampshire borders Massachusetts, which has the third highest per capita income in the U.S. and many NH residents work in Mass. Louisiana also receives substantial revenue from natural resources and Nevada from gambling. The remaining 4 states have no unusual revenue sources and only one Tenn. does not have a comprehensive income tax (this is possible because Tenn. has the highest sales tax rate in the nation, 9.45%). The average per capita income of these 4 states is $34,903, 29% below the average of the top 10 states and 18% below the U.S. average. The ten highest tax states are: NY, NJ, Conn., California, Wisconsin, Minn., Maryland, R. Island, Vermont and Penn. The average tax burden of these states is 11.2%, 1.6 percentage points above the national average. The average per capita income of these states is $47,974, 16% higher than in the low tax states and 13% above the national average. Three of these states- Wisconsin, Vermont, and Penn.- have below average per capita incomes. The population of the ten highest tax states is 103.6 million while the population of the low tax states is 52.6 million with Texas accounting for half this population. Population growth has been faster in the low-tax states but most experts attribute this to the attraction of warmer climates in the south and west and the aging of the population in the east and Midwest. State-local taxes have declined as a share of income over the last several decades- from10.5% in 1977 to 9.8% in 2011. In only four states- Delaware, Ohio, Ind., and Arkansas- have taxes increased. It appears the main reason that job growth has been higher in the low-tax states is because of the energy boom. If you look at the five states without large revenues from energy or gambling- private job growth from 1998 to 2013 was only 3.8%. The job growth in the five highest tax states was 7.5%, admittedly driven by strong growth in California. The national increase was 7.5%. As the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank, has pointed out one must be careful when comparing tax burdens. "When measuring the burden imposed on a given state’s residents by all state and local taxes, one cannot merely look to collections figures for the governments located within state borders. There is a significant amount of tax shifting across state lines, and this shifting is not uniform. Further, this shifting should not be ignored when attempting to understand the burden faced by taxpayers within a state."
Jean Kozek
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:23am
While MI politicians claim that they oppose tax increases, they did raise state income taxes on citizens and added a new tax on pension income. Two years ago taxes were increased to the tune of $1.2 billion. But, this increase did not fund improvements in roads or funding of local services. It only helped offset the $1.8 billion tax cut to a select group of corporations. MI needs that yearly $1.8 billion tax cut to corporations repealed. Those taxes along with the tax increase on citizens could provide appropriate funding for road improvements and local services and schools and parks. And, citizens that voiced their concerns about the desirability of MI as a place to live, must vote and support candidates that share their values.
Jay Johnson
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:24am
I am a Michigan resident who graduated from a public high school in 1961 and attended the University of Michigan for four years. My tuition for the 1961-1962 school year was $280 per semester. My parents paid my first year's tuition and I paid the rest. College was affordable because I worked union jobs each summer in the steel mills and auto plants. Upon graduation in 1965, I had no debt and had saved enough to pay for my first year of law school. Ten years later, the tuition at Michigan was $330 per semester for the 1971-1972 school year -- still affordable. Tuition then doubled to $682 for the 1981-1982 school year. It more than doubled again to $1753 for the 1991-1992 school year. In doubled again to $3375 for the 2001-2002 school year. And it nearly doubled again to $6220 for the school year 2011-2012. While I could easily pay for my college, I think it safe to say that no graduate of a public high school in Michigan could do that today.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 1:14pm
We went from something close to 75% of college budgets being funded from govt (state and fed) and 25% from tuition in the late 60's/early 70's to today where 25% of a college budget is funded from govt and the remaining 75% from tuition. Yes, that makes it cheaper for a Michigan resident to go to an out of state university than it is to pay in state rates at a Michigan college. If we want nice things like an educated workforce, we have to be willing to pay for them.
Dan F
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:41am
Michigan has been among the highest taxed states with the lowest output. This lead to the exodus of nearly 500,000 people from the state and the loss of a congressional seat. Clearly- the "fact" is that the business climate is not attractive. I always hear that "we have to invest in education!" But we have and continued to lose. Our college grads leave and go elsewhere. My son in law tried to move here so we could be near our grandchildren. He couldn't find a job that had his skill set . So he has been promoted again at Dish Network as an Analyst and our grandchildren are in Denver. Investing in more highly educated people without corresponding job growth just has a more highly educated unemployed person. It helps educators like Mr. Austin, it does not necessarily help individuals looking for work. If the educated person leaves the state and works elsewhere, it doesn't help Michigan. The real culprit of our demise has been the unions which have priced our products out of global competition and closed factories all over the state. When we talk "facts" we cannot overlook this as one of them. If you drive from Allentown to Saginaw and see the devastation brought on by unions, you see nothing but closed business and wounded towns. We finally get Right to Work, and the solution from the unions is to repeal it. Really? Look at the states that are growing. Low union, no-union and right to work. Unionism just adds cost to doing business. It prevents employers from having control over their work force. That's why our factories are closed. That's why growth is slow here. This idea of returning to higher taxes and unionism is pure liberal poppycock. Let's look at another culprit- administration. Administration only adds costs not productivity. Every year we hear about budget deficits here and there and we need to raise taxes! How about this idea- Consolidate government! In Genesee County alone we have over 80 government systems to manage a county. How is it our largest corporations can manage world wide distribution so efficiently? We have 550 school districts in the state. Curriculum is curriculum. Why not get rid of towns, townships and school districts and manage them from the county? Fewer Fire Chiefs, Police Captains and administration and more men on the ground doing the work. One administration, instead of 80. Our governments always discuss revenue shortfalls but not cost. Cost is the problem. We can fix it with consolidation. Look to Oakland County as a model. Here's another idea-. Repeal prevailing wage. This is another item that adds to cost. Take the taxes on gasoline and only use them for fixing roads. Then bid the jobs out to the lowest bidder , not the politically connected. You get more roads built for the same amount without raising taxes. Public project costs could drop by 20-30%. More roads, more schools, more projects done without raising taxes. Finally, do a cost benefit analysis of every thing that taxes are spent on and eliminate those items that have the highest taxes to utility ratio. My favorite is "Your Ride" since I always see empty trucks and busses running all over town not providing anyone with a ride. The idea of raising taxes will create prosperity is nonsense. Let's address cost instead.
Mike Wilkinson
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 12:37pm
Though the state saw 500,000 more people leave the state than move into it during the 2000s, the state itself did not lose that many. Births exceeded deaths in all years and though it was the only state to lose population last decade, it lost 54,000, not a half million. But the loss in the 2000s, as well as the tepid growth the decade before, did cause the loss of congressional seats, something seen in all Great Lakes states.
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 11:09pm
Dan (and others) - Please take a look at more current economic data...Michigan is no longer a "high-tax" state. That's an urban legend. It hasn't been true for 20 years. State taxes, all alone, look a little high only because Prop A replaced part of local school taxes with a state tax. The tax total didn't change much when you include local taxes, which were reduced by Prop A. The truth is Michigan is about in the middle, or a little below middle, of all states when you look at total taxes. Plus the elimination of the SBT was a huge shift of tax burden off of business and on to individuals. We didn't lose all those jobs because of taxes. We lost them because the car companies were bloated and inefficient, had their clocks cleaned in the market, and shed workers. And as far as spending is concerned - the biggest increase by far over the past 30 years is prisons. Not education, or environment, or roads, or general government. Prisons. Is that how you want to spend your money? Honestly, dig into the numbers. It will surprise you.
Mon, 08/11/2014 - 4:50pm
I totally agree with getting rid of prevailing wage. I have said it before in reply to one of the articles. My friend had to pay her 22 year-old nephew and other young, no college workers $35 per hour to get a project through a State road organization because of it, or she would not have gotten the job.. How does that help the bottom line? It makes it worse for the price of everything. It is something that has to go, along with recently passed forced unionism.
Mike R
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:54am
Mr. F: Please see my response to Aaron Garn, above. So, please tell me: how has that "Right to Work" worked out for us? What?? There hasn't been one recorded instance of a business moving into Michigan because of Right to Work and the legislature's anti-union blitzkrieg? Shocker.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 12:54pm
Come on Mike, RTW has been in effect for what 2 years? In the nation's worst economic recovery we've seen in the last 50 years (under your guy)? Besides I thought you were pro-choice and all that? What's next, do you want to force people to join churches?
Robert Kleine
Fri, 12/26/2014 - 9:42am
This is not the worst economic recovery in 50 years. By most measures the economy is as good or better than it was from 2002 to 2007. From 2002 to 2007 wage and salary employment increased an average of 131,000 a month. Since employment hit bottom in 2010, employment growth has averaged 175,000 a month and it has averaged 225,000 this year. If you look at real GDP growth, the annual increase from 2002 to 2007 was 2.87% and from 2009 to 2013 it was 2.2%. However, if you subtract government expenditures from the numbers the growth rates are almost exactly the same, 3.14% from 2002 to 2007 and 3.13% from 2009 to 2013. In other words the private sector has been growing at the same rate after the recession as before the recession. Government spending has been growing at the slowest rate in decades which is holding back overall GDP growth. The big problem is that wages are stagnant and have been since 1977 when President Obama was 16 years old, and there is too much income inequality. Businesses could afford to pay higher wages as corporate profits and the profit margin are at all time highs- the profit margin is 10% compared with an historical average of 6%.
Jim MacInnes
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 1:56pm
Good points Mr. Austin! That was also the subject of the panel discussion that we attended at the Urban Land Institute Spring 2014 conference in Vancouver, BC. get what you pay for.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 2:25pm
In spite of what Mr. Austin and many of the commenters here contend Michigan isn't a low tax state, but nor are we a high tax state overall. The problem Michigan does face is that many of our taxes (and faux taxes) are either structured poorly, expensive to administer or are concentrated to hit a small segment inordinately hard, in effect painting ourselves into corners. For example, our roads as Mr. Austin complains suffer, while at the same time we Michigan drivers pay amongst the highest total taxes per gallon in the nation (and soon to go higher if Mr. Austin gets his wish). Yet at the same time less of this goes to our roads than any state in the region. Our property tax system is expensive to administrate, unfair and leads to all sorts of distortions and unwanted unintended consequences. And God help you if you have a little place up north where you're hit with big extra taxes for the privilege of not using the local schools and few of the local services and you don't even get to vote on local issues. Our sales tax system lets you off if you are buying a T-bone steak, a round of golf or sports tickets but wacks you if its a coat for your kid or food for your dog. Mr. Austin complains about the greediness of Michigan not dumping more funds into Higher Ed yet as 35% of grads leave the state (with our investment) nothing dawns on him?. Yet, I assume from his comment's tone, he loved the Michigan business tax, where many small business people were in effect stuck paying 3 and 4 times the rate of other residents in income taxes? And yet we still hear the bitching from the seniors (our wealthiest demographic group) about paying any taxes on pensions? Like it or not, this was a small step in the right direction of reforming that Michigan needs. Unfortunately Mr. Austin's outlook and myopia is all too common in our government and non profit sectors.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 3:02pm
The political system is broken - probably beyond repair. The 50% of the population that is moderate, independent and in the middle has been disenfranchised for years. We need a centrist party and that is unlikely to happen. If the Democrats were smart - they would field moderate candidates - people with common sense. That should be fertile ground - as the Tea Party has taken Republicans so very far to the right and so openly racist. Sure some parts of government are inefficient and Democrats might want to admit that and say that people with common sense can work on changing that. But Michigan Democrats don't show any great talent for doing things that are smart politically. It was nice to see everyone forced to come together and contribute to the Detroit rescue and bailout - a small sign of hope.
Sun, 08/03/2014 - 1:29pm
Jack, what is your basis for stating that Tea Party people are racist?
Charles Richards
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 3:05pm
"Citizens told us Michigan is not where it needs to be economically, not because we don’t have a good enough business climate, but because we’ve been tearing down, not building up, the things that are Pure Michigan…that Michigan’s people care most about…and they aren’t happy about it." If this is the case, why hasn't the legislature been flooded with telephone calls, emails and personal visits demanding that our taxes be raised? I read the paper every day, listen to Michigan Radio every day, and read Bridge three times a week and have yet to detect any sign of such a groundswell of support for raising taxes. The roads are a perfect example. I did not read of a single poll showing majority support for raising gas taxes and registration fees. Nor was there any support for raising the sales tax. Yes, there is support for repealing the $1.8 billion business tax cut. But that is a case of voters desiring good things if somebody else picks up the tab. If all the things Mr. Austin proposes are so valuable and desired by so many, surely they are worth being paid for by those who will benefit from them. Apparently, they are not that valuable. Mr. Austin notes that our quality of life was once much better, but we were a wealthier state then. We had the amenities because we were a wealthy state. We were not a wealthy state because we had the amenities. Michigan was wealthy because we had a monopoly on producing cars that were often mediocre because we lacked competition. That is no longer the case. Only by finding a new way of earning a good income will we be able to restore our former standard of living. Mr. Austin's advice would be more credible if the web site at Michigan Economic Center worked. I have tried for several days to access their report without any success.
Joe F.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 5:50pm
Mr. Austin, and all of his leftwing friends will NEVER understand the value of free enterprise, privatization and limited government to an economy and ALL of its inhabitants. God bless the intellect of respondents like Dan F. Those of you, including our first black but incompetent President, who support government solutions to your woes deserve the disaster you will have created.
Howard Wetters
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 6:10pm
When I attend Michigan State University (1975) the state paid 70% of the cost of my education. The state now pays 19%. The 50% difference is made up by the students who the university with an average of $ 25,000 in student loans. My daughter's peers are leaving with a lot more than that. Michigan's disinvestment in higher education has crippled a once nation leading educational system. I applaud any changes which place a higher priority on both K-12 and Higher Education. But I also have a different market based suggestion. Instead of sending additional billions directly to the state's Universities, let's make the marketplace work its magic by sending tuition subsidies directly to students who are Michigan residents attending Michigan's public higher education institutions. Let the students decide which of our institutions are best suited to their needs. Let's restore the promise scholarship to any student that graduates from high school for two years so we become a K-14 state recognizing that a high school diploma no longer adequately prepares our students for today's job market. As for the roads, their condition is deplorable. I spend over $90,000 a year on fuel for my trucking business and plead with legislators to raise taxes every time I see them. The legislators who now occupy the State Capitol are for lack of any better description "feckless fatherless children". They are so focused on their own image in the mirror that they do not realize the image staring back at them is Nero's.
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 9:14pm
Mr. Austin seems to be preoccupied with placing blame and belittling people ("wrong headed"), that is disappointing because it fails to change anything except make the barriers to cooperation and gain a better understanding of what needs to be addressed harder to overcome. Mr. Austin seems to have THE answers when I am not so sure the right question have even been asked. Mr. Austin seems preoccupied with spending other people's money with no regard for how it is spent or if it even will change the problems he sees. He shows no interest in why the roads are in need of repair, what is the impact the roads are having on people's safety, he doesn't even seem to care if the money being spent or will be spent would change anything. He shows similar disregard for the whys, the hows, and the accountability for any of the other problems he wants to spend other people's money on. I wonder if Mr. Austin has learned how problems are solved and change happens, how to ask the questions, how to bring people with diverse ideas together for success.
Richard Teremi Sr.
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 8:56am
We have forgotten in this country that the Middle Class drives wealth above and below that income level. We are holding wages down by Globalized pressures of too many workers chasing too few openings. The defined benefit pension plan has been eliminated for most. Now we wonder why the demand in the economy is also reduced. This is not rocket science. When prices fare rising faster than wages you have a problem in the economy that will impact demand. Snyder needs to ask why the Dave Camp compromise to lower business taxes and close off-shoring loopholes couldn't make it out of the House for consideration. That philosophy explains why we have funding and revenue issues in Washington and in households in the state.
Thu, 07/10/2014 - 12:11am
Richard, Do you really believe that the issue is simply needing more money? If that is the case then there will never be anough money. Do you proritize your spending? If so, why? If not, why? The questions that need to be asked before the answer (more money) is given are what do we want the future to be and what is preventing it from being achieved. The reason businesses, other organizations, and individuals succeed is they focus on their future before they spend the money. The reality is that money isn't what make success happen, it is the people. And those people can't be replaced by unlimited spending, look at the VA. I did notice that you want higher wages but you seem to ignore why wages are paid. If there isn't greater value delivered how can an employer survive when paying the higher wages?
William C. Plumpe
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 9:30am
Two things are certain. There always will be taxes is the first. And the second is that promising to cut taxes is sure to get attention. I know Ben Franklin noted another but let's not talk about that one. Merely cutting taxes without being aware of the true effects is simply foolish and risky and not well thought out. And there is no real proof that cutting taxes spurs job growth. Real job providers who aren't just looking for the cheapest State look to things like the quality of schools and the condition of infrastructure. I think Michigan's school system is overall very good particularly the colleges and universities while the roads are definitely need work. But you don't maintain high quality education or fix roads by cutting taxes. You work with the taxes you have and try to make them fairer and more reasonable. Take the personal property tax, Some cities and school districts get as much as 50% of their operating budget from personal property tax. And it is a tax that is locally determined. locally collected and locally spent. Do you really believe the State will reimburse cities and school districts 100% for tax revenues lost if the personal property tax is repealed? I doubt that very much. The State does not have a real good record of reimbursing local units for lost revenues. My advice---don't eliminate the tax but rather tweak the rules and put in place a dollar for dollar credit against whatever State income tax a business pays for personal property taxes paid. Then local units get the money directly and businesses get a tax break. And we don't have to wonder if the State is fully reimbursing the local units. Sounds like a good idea to me. I think Michigan
Fri, 07/11/2014 - 1:32pm
Mr.Austin delapidated infrastruture abounds In this state which is screaming out the question "Why so many of our youth OUT of work when reality IS so many of our young men should be employed and given jobs and afforded the opportunity develope themselves into hard working proud youth instead of growing older not put to use building the infrastucture all over this state!!
Carol Rard
Sun, 07/13/2014 - 3:54pm
I do not recognize the Michigan of today. Like your children, bank account, 401K, home, or any of your possessions, one must invest to gain dividends and one must spend money to maintain the condition of one's prized possessions. As responsible citizens we have a responsibility to all pay our fair share. Paying taxes is the way we do that as citizens. Businesses, receiving the greatest benefit from a well educated work force, good roads, bridges, an enticing state with museums, universities, parks, must also pay their fair share. Tax exemptions do not create jobs. Consumers spending money create jobs.
John Sampson
Sun, 07/13/2014 - 5:07pm
I am interested in how different responses to the article by John Austin seems to look at workers, individuals as a cost and not as an investment. It is time that we change how we look at each one of use. We need to see how each of us can contribute to the quality of life in Michigan. I realize that we are now in a global economy which has changed how we look at everything. Lower taxes does "not" solve our problems. We need to fund our state priorities like Minnesota has done. They are a high tax state. Maybe it is time to have all of us help our legislators know what we value and expect to be funded. I appreciate being able to read different points of view in better understanding where individuals come from. Political philosophy seems to get in the way of looking for common sense solutions. We are all in this together and need to work for the common good. This does not mean that government does it all nor that free enterprise will solve everything.
Chuck Gehrke
Sun, 07/13/2014 - 9:27pm
With a few exceptions the essence of all 38 responses is simply a rehash of the same old nonsense we have heard for oh so many years. It's the unions, RTW, no RTW, education support, lack of education support, high taxes, not enough taxes, taxes spent improperly, the bidding process, the lack of a good bidding process and on and on. Who cares? Why not take the time and patience and the energy, brain power, and needed collaboration and figure out the solutions, rather then spending all our time promoting our individual ideologies and demeaning everyone else's. There is no magic bullet or even two magic bullets. A good start would be for the governor to tell the legislature to quit playing politics and being ideologues and get to work solving our problems. He might not get his party's support and therefore not get reelected if he did but at least he would have shown some leadership.
Mon, 07/14/2014 - 10:34pm
Chuck, We need the right question before giving the answer and that doesn't seem to be the approach most want to try. It is understandable because our schools, our workplaces, our politics are made up of impatient people. The best successes are when there is a culture of asking questions until there are no more questions. Are you willing to try or do you have the answer? Mr. Austin has identified many issues/problems, but it seems he has failed to ask a question about any of them even of the successes he seeks. You seem to have an answer, the governor should tell. It might be he could ask. I have learn that the best leaders ask before they tell, they listen before they describe a vision, they encourage others to participate before the act, they hold themselves and the activities accountable before they claim success. How do you think leaders act and what do you want from a leader?
Mon, 07/14/2014 - 8:32pm
Michigan is on a race to the bottom like most other states in cutting business taxes. Add to that the financial kick-backs that states dole out to businesses but call it tax credits or incentives. In the not too distant future I expect I'll be paying my taxes directly to the company I work for. Business is pushing for repeal of the personal property tax but no mention on what's replacing it. Get ready to open your wallet to fund business again and to pay for the road repairs. Big business owns the Michigan legislature -- "pure Michigan".
Tue, 07/22/2014 - 2:12pm
Comments such as those by the author and by John C. Plumpe (July 9; 9:30) suggest that they have NO UNDERSTANDING of a basic fact - namely, that government - ANY and ALL governments CANNOT do ANYTHING efficiently. EVERY dollar they spend is done in an inefficient and unproductive manner. The only way you can create an efficient, and limited government is to STARVE IT of funding. Every government program should be opened to a multi-year contract created by open bidding. In doing so, many clever and competent individuals or group of such will end up running these programs at SIGNIFICANT savings from what existed formerly.
Wed, 07/23/2014 - 9:21am
Right, and so we high a private food contractor for our prison system and see how wonderful that has turned out.
Wed, 07/30/2014 - 3:07pm
Yep Michigan ,Kansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and the country of Puerto Rico All under the "Thumb" of Chuck and Dave Koch and all going down the tubes to "palooka vile" Economic suicide
Thu, 12/25/2014 - 10:47am
Transperancy, trickle down economics , Ya right. The majority never elects our politicians. it is the majority of the minority that does that. Just do the math. Get out and vote, and hold politicians to their promises. R.L.
Thu, 12/25/2014 - 12:04pm
The root of our problem, that is all problems, is moral decay. The fiber of people to care and all look out for each other has decayed. and Instead we have greed,and selfishness. To solve this decay begins with each of us to to better. Tax cuts, no new taxes or more taxes will not solve this problem. Only involved caring people who after much sound debate and discussion can agree and accept in one accord with each other will there be sound leadership.
Allan Blackburn
Thu, 12/25/2014 - 11:52pm
I know Chuck Gehrke personally and I like what he has to say here. We need to come up with solutions and get over our political wrangling and partisanship and work towards them. Unfortunately, we elect leaders and then get mad when they lead. We want only the solutions where, it includes no sacrifice on our part. It has to be at the expense of someone else. Actually, it is our state and it will require sacrifice on everyone's part. I know a lot of people who really don't want any of that sacrifice to come from them. Especially since they are the ruling class, live wherever they want and are satisfied getting richer and richer at the expense of everyone else. I do not see that changing any time soon. I think we are doomed until we realize that; "We have met the enemy and, the enemy is us."
Lewis M. Dickens
Fri, 12/26/2014 - 3:18pm
You failed to mention the 50% drop in Black Student Enrollment at the University of Michigan in the past 15 years. Why was it not mentioned that the EFM took a 200million dollar debt and raised it to a billion dollars and dumped it on the People of Detroit and put up terrible schools while demolishing and giving away great ones. No architectural perspective at all. Pure stupidity! MDOT putting up left turn first intersections that killed my wife and almost got L. Brooks Patterson... and his driver. This is largely stupidity by White Republicans.
Gwen Young
Sat, 12/27/2014 - 8:20am
Apparently nobody in our state government is paying attention to what's happening in Kansas.