Michigan lawmakers this week stood up for state sovereignty regarding education policy and passed budgets that prohibit any funding for the controversial Common Core system.
As the Washington Times reports, “The Michigan measure is the latest blow to the system, now under fire from Republicans across the nation and others who fear it represents the surrender of local control over schools.”
Michigan’s legislature never approved of the Common Core standards. Some state lawmakers see this a cause for alarm as state education policy should be in the hands of elected officials.
“The Department of Education is trying to put Michigan schools in Common Core without legislative approval,” said McMillin. “Giving our authority to control what is taught in our schools to any national entity is wrong.”
In an interview with the Heartland Institute, McMillin stated, “We’re debating some standards in committee today on career-technical education. We don’t have this discussion if Common Core is in place. We have to go hat in hand to the [National Governors Association, which holds the Common Core copyright] and beg them to change the standards. They have a body that is not subject to freedom of information and open meetings acts. A private entity deciding what will be taught in all our public schools is just wrong.”
The reluctance to implement Common Core is seemingly a national trend. According to the Heritage Foundation, “Several other states are pushing back against a major overreach into state educational authority. The federal government’s close ties to the standards—with the Obama Administration using federal dollars and No Child Left Behind waivers to entice states to adopt common standards—has concerned many state leaders, and many are questioning the cost of implementation and the quality of the standards themselves as well.”
Following a conference committee to hammer out differences among the House and Senate budgets, the appropriation bill will go to Governor Snyder’s desk. Snyder’s proposed 2014 budget did not include any funding for Common Core.
Tuesday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held hearings on three bills: House Bill 4358, 4359, and 4539. Supporters of increasing taxes and fees on Michigan residents were out in plenty; suit after suit appeared to testify in support of raising an additional $1.4-1.6 billion dollars in order to “Fix the Roads.”
Not one single lawmaker on the committee stood up for taxpayers and families who are already paying more in federal and state taxes this year because lawmakers at both levels of government decided to raise taxes. Lawmakers on the committee didn’t disagree over whether to raise taxes, but how to raise taxes.
Rep. Wayne Schmidt, Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Lawmakers are debating various tax hike proposals amidst a chorus of special interests. According to a report by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Lansing lobbyists reported record spending in 2012 of $37.14 million–up by 4.8 percent compared to $35.44 million reported in 2011. Everyone benefits from wealth created by a flourishing private sector; however, only well-connected interest groups benefit when lawmakers take money from taxpayers and divvy it up.
Here is a quick breakdown of the proposed legislation:
HB 4358, 4359
Currently, the state levies a 19-cent per gallon tax on gasoline and a 15-cent per gallon tax on diesel fuel. House bills 4358 and 4359 would instead tax gasoline as a percentage of the wholesale price, meaning the tax would fluctuate as the wholesale price of fuel fluctuates. The proposed tax rate per gallon would be 12% of the wholesale price of gasoline (as calculated by the Michigan Department of Treasury).
The House Fiscal Agency (HFA) estimates the current 19-cents per gallon gasoline excise tax will generate $812.5 million in fiscal year 2013-14; HFA estimates the 15-cents per gallon diesel motor fuel tax rate will generate $130 million. Estimates based on a $3.50 per gallon price of gasoline suggest that moving to a wholesale tax structure would generate an additional $584.7 million annually, or $1.527 billion in total state restricted transportation revenue. Estimates based on $4.00 per gallon would generate an additional $828.8 million annually, or $1.771 billion in total. This tax change does not reach the goal of increasing revenue by $1.4 billion so according to lawmakers other tax or fee increases would still be needed and are being discussed.
Just as food is exempted from the state sales tax, House Bill 4539 would exempt gasoline and diesel fuel sales from sales tax. According to MLive, Michigan is one of eight states that levies a sales tax on fuel purchases; Michigan does not devote any of that revenue to road maintenance or repairs. Taken alone, this legislation is a good idea. It would allow lawmakers to increase gas taxes in a revenue neutral way so that all money spent at the pump is used for road maintenance or repairs. Unfortunately, if lawmakers approve such a measure, they are only likely to do so if other bills representing a net tax hike are approved.
Photo credit: MLive
But what about the missing sales tax revenue that is dedicated mostly to education and local government revenue sharing? How about reducing areas of waste in the budget like the 21st Centry jobs fund or ending the Hollywood film subsidies? Nope. Lawmakers have discussed the idea of allowing voters to increase the sales tax by 1% (or 2% as originally proposed in the Senate) to make up for this lost revenue.
State lawmakers need to understand that it is unconscionable to raise taxes when Michigan families have already been paying more this year in federal and state taxes, often with lower incomes and less working hours.
If the goal is to hinder Michigan’s economic growth, they are succeeding. Michigan lawmakers must prioritize spending and remember that money spent in the private sector drives economic growth and increases prosperity. If roads are a priority, make them one without raising taxes. Michigan families deserve a government that works for them, not wealthy lobbyists in Lansing.
Representative Wayne Schmidt told reporters after committee that he still plans to have a plan in place by the first week of May. Sign the “Don’t raise Michigan Taxes… again” petition. It is important tell your lawmakers that you want spending priorities, not more tax increases.
There certainly is a lot of ‘frackus’ surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Hydraulic fracturing is a process of breaking up rock thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface that contains oil or natural gas. It has been a standard since the 1940s. New technology has enable horizontal drilling from some existing wells to reach new sources of natural gas.
FrackNation, a new documentary film by investigative journalist Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magda Segieda, explores fracking through the eyes of actual people living in Dimock, PA where fracking has been banned in response to unsubstantiated hysteria caused by the Oscar-nominated documentary film, Gasland.
Residents of Dimock were so disgusted with how their town was being portrayed in the media that they formed the group “Enough Already.” With donations from over 3,000 people from 26 countries, Phelim and his crew were able to film FrackNation and give a voice to the townsfolk of Dimock to combat the untruths about fracking.
The film shows farmers and residents who welcome the drilling. Many of them with emotional stories to tell about how it is affecting their lives and what will happen if the moratorium continues.
Opponents claim fracking causes all sorts of phenomena from bloody noses to hair loss. Their biggest claim, which was made famous in Gasland, is that fracking causes water to light on fire.
But towns have been able to light their water on fire for centuries due to naturally occuring methane in the water. Recent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Groundwater Protection Council, and independent agencies have found no evidence of groundwater contamination.
A key moment in the film is when a family, the Sautner’s, is told by the EPA that their drinking water is not contaminated with weapon’s grade uranium as they claimed. Instead of celebrating with a sigh of relief, they become deliberately hostile and ask the inspectors to leave.
FrackNation even travels abroad to remind us of the harmful effects of expensive energy on the poor. They interview an elderly woman from Poland who spends half of her monthly income on Russian-sourced natural gas.
Energy has been a boon for humanity, and more access to cheap energy sources increases our quality of life. We take cheap, reliable energy for granted because we have never known a world without it. Unfortunately, almost 3 billion people still burn dung, twigs, and other traditional fuels indoors to cook and keep warm, generating noxious fumes that kill an estimated 2 million people each year, mostly women and children. Opponents of fracking are promoting an agenda that isn’t good for them or us.
Adoption of optional components of Obamacare, Medicaid expansion and the implementation of a partnership exchange will signify the realization of “Snydercare” in Michigan, an egregious healthcare bureaucracy bought and paid for with federal blood money.
Governor Snyder’s de facto endorsement of Obamacare will expedite and enable implementation.
Ironically, while lawmakers at the federal level are working to defund Obamacare, state legislators and Michigan’s governor are moving to enact the ACA under the guise of sensible governance and local control. Installation of healthcare exchanges and Medicaid expansion are the key features of Obamacare. Snyder’s eagerness to implement a partnership exchange in Michigan is tacit support for the national healthcare takeover.
Last summer, Governor Snyder vehemently pushed for a state-based exchange. The original Senate Bill 693 was voted down in the House Health Policy Committee because Democrat representatives abstained. Now Snyder, still crushing on the idea of a “state-based” system, sees federal money in a partnership exchange. But federal-run, state-based and partnership exchanges are equivalent under HHS rules, and offer zero improvements to quality of care.
In 2011 Snyder declined to add his name to the Republican Governors Association letter proposing greater state flexibility in determining Medicaid eligibility and cost sharing. Paul Egan of the Detroit News Lansing Bureau reported on the Governor’s position:
“Given … all the activities we have going on, I’m focused on Michigan,” said Snyder. “My role is not to be a large advocate on a national scale. I was hired to be governor of Michigan.”
It seems that the Governor was too busy to bother with high-impact, wide-range plans to improve healthcare in 2011, but now has ample time to advocate for a Democratic healthcare policy in Michigan. And apparently, Synder isn’t willing to propose an alternative; compliance with Obamacare seems to be his only solution to the need for more and better care.
President Obama designed the ACA to be implemented through the creation of a state exchange in conjunction with Medicaid expansion. Governors and state lawmakers intwenty-six states have seized the opportunity to reject Obamacare by refusing optional measures that would expedite implementation of the law. Snyder, on the other hand, touts Medicaid expansion and exchange installation (funded in what amounts to generational theft) as a panacea.
Medicaid expansion, for example, will throw 17 million of the most vulnerable patients into a broken system that compromises care. According to the CBO and the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2020, 1 in 4 Americans will be hopelessly ensnared in the Medicaid muskeg. Medicaid patients are seven times more likely to be rejected for care by a family physician than those who are privately insured, and two to three times more likely to die of cancer.
Medicaid is the ‘exploding Ford Pinto’ of health insurance. Simply expanding the customer service complaint department will not save lives. Governor Snyder must realize that if he wants to truly improve care, he must seek reform that provides Michigan “real” flexibility and control, and reduces cost, fraud and waste.
Product improvement is driven by increased competition. Michiganders should be able to purchase insurance across state lines to expand access to private insurance. Federal Medicaid funds should be converted into block grants in order to reign in costs. Block grants allocated to each state would promote increased experimentation in healthcare markets, and yield viable solutions unique to individual states’ needs. If competition wasn’t the best means to improve products and services, we’d all be driving a Pinto and surfing MySpace on a Gateway.
“Snydercare” should and could be low-cost, high-quality, patient-focused alternative, not a mechanism to implement Obamacare.
Follow Greta on twitter @pisarczy. Follow Greg on twitter at @gregmgeorge.
How many times have we heard that we need to raise education standards and put more money into schools in order to raise test scores and improve education in America? Lots. It seems that every President wants to make education a top-priority of their administration, and every single time, parents are left with higher costs and meager results. But more importantly, students are left in a system that promotes mediocrity and uniformity. We can, and should do better.
The federal government has required states to raise their academic standards at least five times over the last two decades with little success. President Bill Clinton’s Goals 2000, President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top have all asked states to raise their standards, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has subsequently found no significant improvement in student achievement.1
With the failure of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind, many education policymakers have amplified the call for national academic standards. Proponents of national standards argue that it makes no sense for states to have differing curricula when our globalized economy demands everyone to have the same fundamental knowledge. The Common Core State Standards Initiative was created in 2009 to heed this call for national standards, describing itself as a supposedly “state-led effort” coordinated by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.2
Common Core standards are essentially another federal government “knows best” mandate that adopts the same failed strategies over the last 40 years by simply calling for higher standards. It has undergone no field testing or evaluation and was never voted on by Michigan lawmakers.
Maybe this administration is smarter than all of the rest and it will succeed; or maybe, just maybe, this is entirely the wrong approach?
We accept in other industries — technology, health care, automotive and manufacturing — that competition drives innovation, lowers prices and all-around improves standards for both products and services. New standards are demanded continuously by the customer and improvements are made as a result. Why don’t we do the same with education? Why does what works elsewhere get discarded so quickly, and what doesn’t work gets tried ad nauseam?
Education is too important for society and prosperity to be controlled by those furthest from the students. Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation sums it up best when she says that, “Adopting Common Core national standards and tests surrenders control of the content taught in local schools to distant national organizations and bureaucrats in Washington. It is the antithesis of reform that would put control of education in the hands of those closest to the student: local school leaders and parents.”3
That fact is not all students are created alike, and a one-sized fits all education platform is not the answer to improving education. Parents should be given more choices and local school districts and teachers should be given more flexibility to provide the higher standards students deserve. Common Core removes parents from important decisions regarding their child’s education undermining the very nature of accountability. Do we want teachers and school to be accountable to parents and their children, or to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. who can’t even pass a budget?
Raising taxes is never popular. But apparently raising the gas tax and making Michigan’s gas tax the highest in the country didn’t sit well with Michigan drivers. Lansing lawmakers have altered their proposed solutions, but don’t get too excited. They still want to increase taxes instead of prioritizing spending.
At a meeting last Tuesday, Governor Rick Snyder, House Speaker Jase Bolger, and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville discussed three new prospective plans. Because the sales tax on gasoline doesn’t go to roads, the three plans involve exempting the sales tax on gasoline and raising gas taxes a subsequent amount that would then be allocated to roads.
Projected sales tax revenue distribution for fiscal year 2013-14 (via Michigan House Fiscal Agency). (Photo by MLive Media Group)
What about the lost sales tax revenue from education and revenue sharing for local governments? Again the solution is playing monkey-in-the-middle between what is practical for families’ and taxpayers’ budgets, and what works in Lansing.
Good governance and sound budgeting call for spending priorities; Lansing raises taxes.
‘It’s For The Kids’ Option: The first option state lawmakers are considering is hiking the state sales tax from 6% to 7%, requiring a vote of the people, and dedicating that money to replace the lost money from the exempted sales tax on gasoline. According to the Sales Tax institute, the ‘it’s for the kids’ option would give Michigan the second highest state sales tax behind California at 7.5%. Increasing the price of gasoline isn’t politically popular, but more money for kids is usually an easier sell.
Midnight Tax Attack Option: A second plan would extend the current sales tax to services. This would not require a vote of the people. According to Gongwer, in 2007 the legislature extended the sales tax to wide-range of services in the middle of the night. Those with lobbyists present seemed to win exemptions from the tax increase but those without for the most part did not.
‘It’s For The Kids’ Revisited Option: The third suggestion would replace the lost revenue by increasing the 6-mill State Education Tax on property.
To date, Lansing lawmakers have not agreed to any of these proposals and are still discussing solutions. What’s missing? A solution that involves the prioritization of spending.
Some lawmakers in Lansing would have you believe that they have eliminated all wasteful spending from the budget because they have balanced it early the last two years. This is simply not the case. Our tax dollars are still being spent on film subsidies, grants for tow truck companies, tourism advertisements, community revitalization projects, and food markets.
Lawmakers in Lansing need to define what the role of state government should be and prioritize spending accordingly. Government is not a one-stop-shop to fix all problems facing Michiganders. They should allow private enterprises who seek customers voluntarily to provide for the wants and needs of society. Individuals best know how to spend their own money, whether they do so by starting new businesses, expanding old ones, buying a new pair of shoes, or taking the family on a much needed vacation. Entrepreneurship and voluntary trade drives the economy; government stifles innovation when lawmakers get too involved. And in Michigan lawmakers are too involved.
It is time that legislators stopped trying to pick business winners and fix the roads.
Governor Snyder is holding seven renewable energy forums. Attend to make your voice heard on the issue of energy policy in Michigan!
How Michigan proceeds with our energy market will have a significant impact on our state economy, families, and the state budget. The question is: Will Governor Snyder and lawmakers in Lansing decide to pursue a more market oriented approach or will they continue with the current restricted policy?
To answer this question, Governor Snyder and the Michigan Public Service Commission are hosting several public forums to gather information from citizens across the state. (See complete list below.)
In November, voters soundly rejected a constitutional mandate, “Proposal 3″ or “25X25,” that would have required 25 percent of our energy production come from select renewable sources by the year 2025. Currently, Michigan has a 10% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandate with talks of increasing it further.
The intermittency of wind and other renewable energy sources should be cause for concern for Michigan lawmakers and residents. Energy drives the economy and enables businesses to prosper. It powers the local grocery store that feeds us and the hospitals that care for the sick and newly born.
Due to the structure of the mandate, most of construction since 2008 has been filled with wind energy. The personal affects of this energy on those living near a windmill deserves serious attention. Cary Shineldecker’s home has been tortured by loud noises, pressure changes, shadow flicker, and ice throw. The entire process has been a nightmare for him and his family as shown in these comments and video below:
“My home used to be a place of sanctuary for my family, a safe place, where we could come home and rest and find peace. Now it is a place that creates anger and inspires disillusion in man and government.
“Many will become wealthy from this push for renewable energy, others will be collateral damage, accepted and ignored by the government and zoning laws that are suppose to be in place to protect them.”
Michigan law also restricts competition in the energy market by caping the number of energy suppliers. This creates a state-sponsored monopoly and puts bureaucrats in charge of where we get our energy and who profits from it. Lawmakers should be embracing principles that reduce prices through increased competition, not capping energy suppliers.
A coalition of businesses, consumers, suppliers, trade associations, and other interested stakeholders called “Energy Choice Now,” which includes Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, feels that this cap creates a monopoly for Michigan’s two largest energy providers, restricts economic growth, and increases rates for consumers and businesses. Lawmakers should allow all companies to compete fairly with other energy sources, including renewable sources. However, funding renewable energy sources with tax dollars and providing special laws to benefit them is unacceptable and harms our economy.
Urge Governor Snyder and your state lawmakers to allow flexibility in meeting renewable standards and to consider elimination due to the increased cost of wind generated power on the poor, families, and businesses especially high-energy consumers like manufacturing. Michigan deserves a portfolio of energy that is independent of government subsidies and mandates that serves its residents, not politicians and lobbyists.
The public forums will be hosted by Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman John D. Quackenbush and Michigan Energy Office Director Steve Bakkal, whom the governor charged with co-chairing and overseeing the public input process.
Information gathered will assist public policymakers and the public as they take a comprehensive look at Michigan’s energy future.The seven Michigan Energy Public Forums will be held from 1:00-5:00PM on the following dates at the locations listed:
As if the tax increases to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” weren’t enough, state lawmakers and Governor Snyder are looking to increase gas taxes and vehicle registration fees by $1.2-1.4 billion annually, with mechanisms to increase transportation spending in perpetuity. Never fear, however, they are giving taxpayers two options: raise taxes or… raise taxes. And neither option allocates all of the funding to fixing roads.
Apparently, lawmakers and the governor have already weeded out any and all government waste and unsuccessful programs. That must be why there is no option on the table to balance out these increases with a proposed cut in other taxes or a matching reduction in spending.
Increase the annual vehicle registration tax by approximately 80%, with similar increases for trucks and trailers.
Change the way registration fees are calculated:
Instead of the basis reducing gradually to 72.9% of the list price and remaining there from the fourth year on, the basis would stay at 100% for ten years and then reduce to 50%.
Put simply, the annual registration tax on a car listed at $15,000 would increase from $73 to $131 and a vehicle listed at $20,000 would increase from $98 to $176. These increases would remain in effect for 10 years until they would drop to 50%. This means that even used cars purchased five years later would have the initial registration tax calculated even though the car would have significantly depreciated in value.
OPTION B: Increase Sales Tax to 8%; Repeal Gas Taxes
Increases the current sales tax of 6% to 8%, which would require a vote of the people.
Not all of the current 6% sales tax goes to roads and would remain that way.
Repeals the current Motor Fuel Carrier Tax contingent upon approval of the tax increase by voters.
Dedicates 0.7% of revenue collected to pay for recreation trails and cleanups through the Michigan Conservation and Recreation Fund.
Dedicates at least 90% of revenues to transportation projects.
Authorizes the legislature to issue debt against future revenue from the 2% hike.
The debt, ironically, shall not be counted as state debt.
If roads are a priority in order to save lives and money as stated by Governor Snyder, then let’s make them one. But let’s do so without taking away more money from the private sector, which is struggling with chronically high unemployment and decreased wages and home values.
Overall, Michigan spends nearly $1,000 more per person than Indiana. It isn’t a matter of revenue; it’s a matter of where that money is spent. The Michigan Transportation Team should be using the broadness of its coalition to target spending, promoting a message of ‘priorities,’ not ‘tax increases.’
There does look to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, House Speaker Bolger maintains this attitude going forward:
Students still emerge from high school ready neither for college nor for work despite the Department of Education, significant increases in educational spending, standardized testing, the National Education Association and other teacher-focused unions, and now the concept of Common Core standards. If we were to actually look at designing an educational system from scratch, very few would argue for the current system of bureaucratic red-tape and top-down control from thousands of miles away.
The lack of educational choice and the bureaucratic protection of a broken monopoly hurts children and stifles their ability to pursue their own happiness.
Poor families are most affected by this lack of choice. As Friedman noted, “There is no respect in which inhabitants of a low-income neighborhood are so disadvantaged as in the kind of schooling they can get for their children.” It is a sad statement quantified by data on low levels of academic achievement and attainment. (Source: http://goo.gl/4tcvT)
Children from across the country deserve more from their government — more freedom and choices.
Click here to read more about School Choice from our sister organization Americans For Prosperity Foundation.
A new study from the Government Accountability Institute revealed that for every dollar corporations spent on lobbying in 2004, they received $220 in return — a 22,000% return on investment! This study confirms that cronyism, or crony capitalism, is a huge problem today. Instead of success being determined by the free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by politicians in the form of special tax breaks, federal or state government grants and other incentives.
According to the study, 50% of corporations have politicians on their board, and 30 corporations spend more on lobbying than they pay in taxes. General Electric, for example, spends $100,000 every single day to influence and lobby Congress. This rampant cronyism stretches across both political parties as half of the Republicans who were part of the 1994 “Contract with America” are now lobbyists after leaving Congress.
When wealth is created in the private sector everyone benefits, but when money is taken from taxpayers and distributed to the well connected through Washington, DC or Lansing only those with access to the breaks will benefit.
Time to end cronyism and embrace economic freedom.