MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

With federal budget cuts, the sky may really be falling

Added March 31st, 2017 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

My son loves books, and one of our favorite things to do every night is read before bed. Many of the stories we choose also provide a learning experience. One of our recent favorites has been Chicken Little, which I think my son chooses to laugh at me stumbling over tongue-twisting character names. It also gives us a chance to talk about thinking rationally.

This lesson is applicable from our kids to my policy work to the highest levels of government. But when President Donald Trump released his “skinny budget” in March—despite being light on detail—the potential impact it could have on our state budget and Michigan residents was stifling. And at times, I really do feel like the sky is falling.

My fear is not unfounded. Michigan has grown increasingly reliant on federal funds. Over the past decade, while our total state budget has grown by about 29%, federal funds in our budget have grown by nearly 69%. In our current budget, federal funds provide $22.7 billion of our $54.2 billion state budget. This means that more than $4 out of every $10 provided for important programs like public education, healthcare for children and families with low wages, food assistance and road maintenance are paid for by federal dollars.


These federal grants do matter to our state budget. According to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, federal grants to states and local governments make up nearly one-third of non-defense discretionary spending. Michigan receives 3% of total federal grants to states, and only California, New York, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio get a bigger share than Michigan. Cuts to these discretionary programs, which are already at historically low levels, would harm workers, college students, local communities and families with low- and moderate-incomes.

What’s more is that this “skinny budget” proposes to completely eliminate funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps families and many seniors pay heating bills; a block grant that supports housing, community facilities and economic development; the HOME program which helps develop and repair affordable rental housing and repair homes for homeowners with low incomes; and the Community Services Block Grant, which provides anti-poverty services.

While President Trump’s budget only outlines changes in discretionary spending, changes to mandatory grants may still be forthcoming, for example block granting or putting a per capita cap on Medicaid. (While the first round of the American Health Care Act was withdrawn, you can bet that Congress will try, and try again, to repeal the Affordable Care Act and alter Medicaid funding.) Changes in these programs, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), free and reduced-priced school meals, child care assistance and other assistance for families with low incomes, would mean deep cuts to these programs as states would be unable to absorb the costs themselves. This would reduce services to those Michigan residents who really need it.

Cuts to federal grants to state and local governments, and changes in federal programs, will only mean cuts to the very Michigan residents that rely on these services. Changes will result in more potholes and unsafe bridges, fewer Michigan residents with healthcare coverage, more children going hungry, less affordable housing, more poverty and more problems, all having a long-term negative impact on our economy.

So pardon my doomsday sentiment, but states really rely on federal funds to run. And these changes would affect our state for years to come. But we can change the future. It is important for all of us to get in touch with our members of Congress and tell them the things that really matter to us as they make decisions on the federal budget that will have a direct impact on our great state.

— Rachel Richards

How to think about health insurance and the Affordable Care Act

Added March 20th, 2017 by Charles Ballard | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Charles Ballard

Few laws, if any, have been the object of more misinformation, disinformation and alternative facts than the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA, also known as Obamacare). Now that Congress is considering plans to dismantle the ACA, it’s more important than ever for Americans to have access to thoughtful analysis, which is what I hope to provide here.

Why Health Insurance Is a Good Thing
The first thing to say is something that may sound obvious, but which has nevertheless often been lost in the noise: Health insurance saves lives. Across the country, thousands of people are alive today who would be dead without the insurance coverage that they have received through the ACA. That’s worth saying again—thousands of Americans would be dead without the ACA.

If the ACA is rolled back, it is estimated that nearly 24 million Americans will lose their health insurance. This includes millions of people in Michigan. If that happens, every year more and more will die needlessly.

Why the United States is the Only Affluent Country without Universal Health Insurance
The second thing to say is another thing that may seem obvious, but is worth saying because the “debate” over the ACA has obscured so much: The USA is the only affluent country in which a “debate” like this is taking place. Every other affluent country in the world (including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Japan and many others) has achieved a moral consensus that all residents should have full access to the healthcare system. In these countries, the moral judgment is that it is simply wrong for a society to provide full access to healthcare for some residents, but not for others. In other words, in these other countries, access to healthcare is viewed as something that should be distributed very equally.

Healthcare 2In the United States, the lack of such a consensus indicates that many are comfortable with a very unequal distribution of access to healthcare. With that very unequal distribution, those who are rich enough or lucky enough to have good health insurance have access to the best doctors and hospitals in the world. Those who aren’t so lucky are left to pray that they don’t get sick. If they get very sick, they are sometimes lucky enough to get a hospital to provide them with uncompensated care. And sometimes not.

It’s worth noting that access to healthcare is only one of several areas in which the moral consensus in the USA is different from the moral consensus in the rest of the world. For example, in the USA, household income is distributed much more unequally than in other affluent countries. For the USA to have a distribution of income as equal as that of the countries of western Europe, it would be necessary to redistribute a few trillion dollars from the top one percent to the bottom 99 percent, every year.

These differences between the USA and the other affluent countries did not arise by accident. They are the deliberate result of policies. The other countries also have more generous provisions for parental leave and child care, much lower rates of incarceration, and the list goes on and on. In one policy area after another, the political systems of the other affluent countries reflect a moral consensus to limit inequality, while the American political system reflects a moral consensus (or lack thereof) that allows a much greater degree of inequality.

The Economics of Health Insurance Markets
Although morals and ethics are central to understanding why we in America allow so many needless deaths as a result of lack of health insurance, a full assessment of the issue also requires some knowledge of the economics of health insurance. If private health insurance markets were able to provide universal coverage at a cost that everyone could afford, the problem would easily be solved.

pediatricianHowever, private insurance markets suffer from fundamental flaws. (This is not a diatribe against private markets. Private markets do an amazing job of providing all sorts of goods and services, with only a very modest amount of government regulation and oversight. But the peculiar characteristics of insurance markets are such that they don’t work nearly as well as most other markets.)

A private health insurance company makes a profit by collecting more in premiums than it pays out in claims. Thus the best of all possible worlds for a private health insurance company is to collect premiums from very healthy customers who have few illnesses, and thus generate few claims. That’s why, before the ACA, the standard business model for private health insurance companies was to deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

If a private health insurance company were to offer coverage at rates based on community averages, and if it could not keep out the sickest people, what would happen? The sickest people would sign up, but the healthiest would not. That would leave the company with a sicker-than-average pool of customers. This is called “adverse selection,” and it’s a formula for insurance companies to go out of business.

Denial of coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions is extremely unpopular with the public, but it is the only way for an otherwise unregulated private health insurance market to avoid collapsing from adverse selection.

Public Policies for Overcoming the Flaws of Private Health Insurance Markets: The Simple and the Complicated
If we want people with pre-existing conditions to have health insurance, two public policy approaches are available. The simple method is to have a “single-payer” system in which everyone is covered. This simple method is used in Medicare, which pays for health insurance for all elderly Americans. Medicare is not perfect, but it does effectively solve the problem of adverse selection for elderly Americans—the elderly are covered automatically.

medical1-150x150If we were to extend Medicare to the non-elderly population, a system of “Medicare for All” would achieve universal health insurance coverage, and would thus overcome the problem of adverse selection. Everyone would be covered.

An added advantage of Medicare for All is that it would lead to a dramatic reduction in administrative costs. The healthcare “system” in the United States is a crazy-quilt hodge-podge of Medicare, Medicaid, various types of private insurance, and a separate system for veterans, each with its own rules and forms. As a result, the United States spends far more on administration than any other country. If we had a single, unified system, we would save hundreds of billions of dollars per year by reducing the cost of administering the system.

The complicated way to expand health insurance coverage is to continue to rely on private insurance companies, but to add some major tweaks to the system. The first tweak would be to prohibit the insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. But that, by itself, would push the system into a death spiral of adverse selection. The sickest would sign up; the healthiest would not; the companies would go out of business.

Thus if we desire to move toward universal coverage, while still working within the framework of a private market for health insurance, it isn’t enough to prohibit companies from denying coverage. It’s also urgently necessary to get more healthy people into the risk pool. The way to get more healthy people to sign up for coverage is to offer a set of subsidies for acquiring insurance, and/or penalties for not doing so.

Enter President Barack Obama. When he took office in 2009, along with Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress, the levers of power in Washington were in the hands of people who were committed to pushing toward more equal access to healthcare. They faced a choice between the simple method (Medicare for All) and the complicated method (prohibition of denial of coverage, combined with taxes and subsidies).

They chose the complicated method: The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, which is extremely popular. And then, in an effort to avoid an adverse-selection spiral, the ACA also has a complicated system of taxes and subsidies, which are unpopular.

Why did President Obama and the congressional Democrats choose the complicated method? The answer has nothing to do with the economic advantages and disadvantages of the simple method and the complicated method. It has everything to do with the political fact that health insurance companies have tremendous power. The simple approach of Medicare for All would cut out the insurance companies. President Obama and the Congressional Democrats reached the conclusion that insurance companies had enough power to block the simple method, which left the complicated method as the only option for increasing access to healthcare.

Evaluation of the Affordable Care Act
What can we say about how well the ACA has performed? In my view, the ACA is a significant improvement on what we had before. Its biggest achievement, of course, is that the number of Americans with health insurance has increased by about 20 million, including about 1 million in Michigan; as mentioned above, some of these people are alive today because of the ACA.

Emergency room 2Unfortunately, the ACA has not done as much as it might have done. One problem is that the decision to take part in the Medicaid expansion, which is an important part of the ACA, was left up to the states. Many states decided not to participate, even though the federal government would have covered a large portion of the costs. Millions of Americans thus had to continue without health insurance, and some of them died needlessly. Fortunately, Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder is one of the few Republican governors who had the courage to put the health of residents ahead of partisan politics.

The taxes and subsidies that are designed to shore up the private health insurance market have only been modestly successful. Some insurance companies have stopped providing coverage. This is a testament to the extraordinary stubbornness of the adverse-selection problem. Even with a very elaborate system of incentives, the ACA still has not been able to get as many healthy people into the system as it should.

Efforts to Roll Back the ACA
If the 2016 elections had been won by people who place a high priority on equal access to healthcare, the ACA probably would have been tweaked in an effort to put a further dent in the problem of adverse selection.

But power in Washington now rests in the hands of those for whom equal access to healthcare appears to be a low priority. And yet the Congressional leadership also appears to understand that it would be politically unpopular to return to a system in which insurance companies can deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. Thus the American Healthcare Act maintains the ACA’s prohibition on denial of coverage, but would charge more in a person has a significant lapse in coverage while weakening the parts of the ACA that were designed to prevent an adverse-selection spiral. This raises the real possibility that the problem of adverse selection could worsen.

The rollback of the ACA also includes repeal of some of the taxes that were enacted to pay for the expansions of health insurance. The most important thing to know about the taxes slated for repeal is that they are paid almost exclusively by people with very high incomes. Thus again we see the linkage between moral attitudes toward different issues. The Congressional leadership seeks to scale back the ACA (thus leading to less equal access to healthcare), at the same time that it seeks to reduce taxes on the most affluent (thus increasing income inequality generally).

I trust it is clear that I am in favor of expanded health insurance. In fact, I would be happy if every American had health insurance, even though that would probably require increased taxes, some of which I would probably have to pay. It’s also true that I have been fortunate to work for the last 34 years for an employer that provides very good health insurance. Thus you might ask, why do I care whether anyone else gets insurance? If I have mine, why shouldn’t I just be happy about that (and if others don’t have health insurance, that’s just their tough luck)? The reason is that I am a member of a community. I am not an island unto myself; I am a citizen of the State of Michigan and the United States of America. I believe in the Biblical admonitions to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and care for the sick. I believe that if you have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me.

— Charles L. Ballard, Ph.D., League Board Chair

Facing the rhetoric about working families and child care

Added March 17th, 2017 by Pat Sorenson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

My days of raising young children are long gone, but I remember well my biggest parenting struggle and cause of angst—finding child care that I trusted. I am not unique. Two of every three young children have working parents and many are facing the same struggle.

Virtually all parents consider their children their most precious gift, and they want child care that is safe, nurturing, consistent and reliable. They want care that can help their children take advantage of the rapid growth that happens in the earliest years—in language, emotional attachment, and social and cognitive skills.

Sadly, not enough has changed in the 25 years since I was in the child care market. Despite rhetoric about the importance of children and new scientific research about the critical window of opportunity for brain development in the earliest years of life, child care providers are still some of the most underpaid workers in our state, with wages similar to dishwashers and fast food cooks (who are also underpaid).

When my youngest son was in child care, I worried about the turnover of child care providers in his center. Just when he was getting attached and feeling comfortable with caregivers, they would leave. On one occasion I went to a downtown Lansing sandwich shop to pick up some lunch, and found one of his favorite teachers behind the counter. She told me that she missed the kids and loved the work, but couldn’t afford to stay.

BB Child Care BibsMarch_17_2017 chart 2What does this say about how we value our children? And mine is a story of someone who had the means to purchase higher-quality care. What about the many parents who do not, and are forced to rely on a patchwork of relatives, neighbors and friends who do not want to provide long-term care, or are facing health or other hardships of their own?

Despite the low wages paid to child care providers, child care is a major expense for low- and moderate-income families—exceeding the cost of housing and even college tuition. A family with poverty-level wages would need to spend virtually all its income (92%) to put two children in a high-quality child care center.

The governor has proposed an increase in funding next year for Michigan’s child care subsidy program, with the goal of raising reimbursements to providers willing to care for children from families with low incomes. This will not completely bridge the gap between our rhetoric about valuing children and the reality of the state’s child care system, but it is an important step forward—with a needed focus on the families that can least afford high-quality child care, and the children who need it most. I commend the governor for this important step and hope you will too.

— Pat Sorenson


Stop and listen

Added March 14th, 2017 by Jenny Kinne | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jenny Kinne

“I just want to give up. I want to go to sleep.”

This came as a response to a simple question, asked in a room of strangers: “Tell me your life story. What is keeping you and others down in Kalamazoo?” Perhaps more heartbreaking than the response was the chorus of nodding heads and mumbles of agreement around the room.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have traveled around Kalamazoo, sitting in on community conversations and trying to understand the realities and causes of poverty in the city. The Michigan League for Public Policy is working with the Nonprofit Network to train all Kalamazoo city employees on cultural competency, the systemic causes of poverty and ways in which public servants can create pathways out of poverty.

To build this training, we had to first do a lot of listening.

stop_and_listen_by_stupideyedFor the first time in my professional life, I was instructed to wear casual clothes, no jewelry, no makeup, no purse, no cell phone, and I was told that I should simply listen. I could not take notes. I could not share my own ideas.

As a result, trust was established, and I heard people in a way I hadn’t before. I was humbled by their stories. Here are a few:

  • “I returned here from prison … Men get locked up and then no one is around to help take care of the kids. Everyone loses. We need jobs. I’m $57 away from being homeless.”
  • “I live in a shelter, I’m 54 and my foot is broken in three places. The doctor says my arm is bad and it won’t work anymore—may never heal. I was raised as a working man. I was raised to take care of my family … They tell me to get on disability. I’ve tried multiple times. I apply—they tell me to wait a year. I apply—they tell me to wait some more. Meanwhile, I’m on the streets, trying to take care of my kids … I’m going to do what I have to do. And if that means breaking into your house to get what I need to survive, you can’t judge me. I lost everything.”
  • “I hurt my back and have been disabled since 2002. I had to draw down unemployment but I can’t get what I need to feed my kids. I’ve worked since I was 14. I own my own home—have for 22 years. And I was told by a worker that I was living above my means and that I should sell my home. How dare she? That’s my home. I lost it. I went off. They had to call the police on me.”

Like many people around the state, these men and women are suffering, working to make ends meet, but for many reasons outside of their control are not able to keep up with life’s demands.

As a policy enthusiast, here is what I see. I see a need for criminal justice reform—investment in reentry programs and motivation for employers to hire people with criminal records. I see a need to simplify the application process for unemployment, disability and other state services. I also see the necessity of incentivizing the development of affordable and high-quality housing.

One of the core causes of poverty is most certainly inadequate and inequitable public policy, and the stories I heard in Kalamazoo have further confirmed a need for reform of key policies in Michigan.

From now on, I plan to put listening first in my work. I hope to dig deeply and empathetically into statistics to find the real people underneath. I think this is vital as we move forward, organizing for change in our state and globally, within harsh and often impersonal political environments.

— Jenny Kinne

So many health factors are beyond our control

Added March 10th, 2017 by Julie Cassidy | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Julie Cassidy

As the League’s newest analyst with a focus on the social determinants of health, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own health and how it’s affected by the larger world in which I live. The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, and include things like environment, nutrition and income.

I took my health for granted until I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and prescribed medication that retails for $1,400 per month. Fortunately, I have health insurance so my medication is affordable. My disease is mostly under control and I enjoy a high quality of life, which I attribute to the fact that I’m in a position to make many choices every day that allow me to maintain good health.

Because individual behavior drives much of a person’s health status, it’s easy to blame unhealthy people for failing to make the “right” choices. However, this perspective ignores that the ability to exercise choice and make healthy decisions varies drastically from person to person, often due to broader forces beyond the control of any individual.

Many social determinants of health are closely connected to household income. Financial hardship directly prevents people from obtaining high-quality medical care, and getting and staying healthy can be costly and time-consuming in ways that disproportionately affect families that are struggling to get by.

I’m fortunate to have an employer that offers paid leave time so I don’t have to worry about losing wages due to my illness. Living in a city, I’m not too concerned about a shortage of healthcare providers. As a well-educated, white, thin person, I’m not worried that my providers harbor implicit biases affecting the quality of the care I receive. I have a reliable car so I can easily get to medical appointments and the grocery store.

MI Should Eliminate SNAP Asset TestSince my diagnosis, I cook almost everything from scratch. This would be impossible without access to the fresh, healthy food available at a full-service grocery store. My parents cooked regularly when I was growing up and they taught me the basics. Even with these advantages, it’s a lot of work. If I were working multiple jobs to make ends meet, I wouldn’t have the time to cook for myself and my family in this way.

I’ve never had a problem finding safe, affordable housing or had to risk my life to keep warm. As a white person who grew up in a nearly all-white town, I’ve never worried that economic structures and social institutions shaped by years of systemic racism have literally made me sick.

Poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” This is especially true when it comes to health. Our well-being is intertwined with our social connections, and virtually every aspect of public policy has health implications. In a country founded on the notion of equality of opportunity, no child should be born with his or her health destiny already written in stone.

Through our policy work, the League aims to remove systemic barriers so that all Michiganians have the freedom to choose good health. Be sure to check the blog periodically as I explore the specific social determinants of health and highlight the programs and policy solutions that can empower all people to enjoy a long, healthy life.

— Julie Cassidy

How people power beat politics, stopped income tax cut

Added March 8th, 2017 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

We did it! In the early hours of the morning on February 23rd, the Michigan House of Representatives voted down House Bill 4001 to cut Michigan’s income tax 55-52 with bipartisan opposition. This was a major victory for Michigan’s schools, roads, public safety and other vital public services that we all depend on, as this bill would have slashed billions from the state budget. And this was a major victory for you, as the League and our supporters were instrumental in helping defeat this bill.

The odds were certainly stacked against us, and passage of a state income tax cut seemed like a foregone conclusion. But we knew the stakes for our state were too high and refused to accept that, and you did too.

With a budget impact of anywhere from $250 million to $9 billion, the League led the charge against repealing or cutting Michigan’s income tax. We spoke out against it as soon as we heard the idea was being discussed and at every subsequent opportunity we got, including the bill’s introduction, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, the governor’s State of the State address and his budget presentation.

The League also pointed out the significant struggles in Kansas after they cut their income tax, as did a blog from the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And we compiled data to show that an income tax cut would largely benefit the wealthy.

73 percent MI oppose_March 2017 GRAPHICTo allow the people of Michigan to weigh in on cutting the state income tax, the League commissioned a statewide poll that showed voters opposed eliminating the state’s income tax without replacement 74% to 16%. This included people from all political affiliations and areas of the state. I also testified in opposition to HB 4001 at the committee hearing along with several of our partners representing Michigan’s schools and local communities.

But our most effective strategy was to engage with people like you across the state and enable you to reach out to legislators directly to voice your opposition to cutting the state income tax. To date, 1,110 Michigan residents have sent approximately 8,000 emails to Michigan legislators. This flurry of activity in the week leading up to the vote had a major impact, and we are extremely grateful to all of you who joined us in this effort.

We also have to thank all of our partner organizations, representing Michigan’s schools, colleges and universities, communities, infrastructure, businesses, hospitals, workers and more, who mobilized quickly and helped fight this attack on our way of life and the budget funding that sustains it.

The ultimate credit for stopping this bill, though, goes to the 55 legislators who stood up to intense political pressure and took a courageous vote against this proposal—especially the 12 Republicans who crossed party lines and voted no. If you haven’t already, please thank these 55 legislators. Since the vote, 584 people have sent 32,120 emails thanking these representatives, and we have heard from numerous lawmakers that this encouragement is truly appreciated.

While we have won this battle, the war continues. The House bill technically could be taken back up at any time. The Senate Finance Committee Chair has introduced a bill in the Senate to outright repeal the state income tax and is convening a work group on it. And as budget negotiations get underway, the process could be used to make cuts and generate the revenue to reduce the income tax.

So, we need to keep fighting. Successfully defeating this bill was a major coup, but we have to stay vigilant and engaged as many other attacks on state revenue are sure to come. Thanks again to our partners, the 55 Representatives who voted no, and all of you who helped stave off this disastrous bill. Michigan is better off because of you.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

Making Michigan’s budget work for you

Added March 2nd, 2017 by Pat Sorenson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

Since the national elections last fall, public attention has rightly been focused on the new administration in Washington. Without a doubt, what happens in our nation’s capital matters to Michigan—in dollar terms alone. Federal dollars account for $4 of every $10 spent by the state, and the reliance on federal funds exceeds 70% in the departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

Highlights 2018 BudgetBut right here in Lansing, state legislators are now carving up the state’s budget pie for 2018, and the stakes—as always—are high for communities, schools, families and children. As you search for ways to express your concerns about the direction this country and state are heading, don’t overlook the importance of engaging with your legislators on priorities for the state budget.

The governor has recommended some important investments in healthcare, child care and education in his proposed budget—investments that are sorely needed to make Michigan a leading state and spur economic growth after years of inadequate support for state services and infrastructure. Many of the governor’s proposals are priorities of the League, including:

  • Continued funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan;
  • An expansion of access to high-quality child care;
  • Increased funding for high-poverty schools; and
  • A boost in the annual school clothing allowance for families living in deep poverty.

Both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives are meeting in subcommittees to write their own versions of the state budget, and this is your chance to get engaged. The League has developed some tools to help you do that, including a summary of the governor’s proposed budget for 2018 and tips for influencing the state budget. The League monitors the budget closely and will continue to provide regular updates on issues of concern to residents with low and moderate incomes. You can visit our budget page on our website, sign up for our email updates and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay current on our budget and policy efforts.

If you haven’t contacted your state legislators about the Michigan budget yet, what’s holding you back? While the state budget process may seem complex, like your own family’s budget, it boils down to using the resources you have to keep your family healthy and safe, and achieve your priorities for the future. You are an expert in describing what your community, your family and your children need. Tell your story and exercise your power. We need you!

— Pat Sorenson

Advocates tackle challenges facing U.P. kids

Added March 1st, 2017 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

I recently had the pleasure of presenting before the Upper Peninsula Children’s Coalition in Marquette with several Great Start Collaboratives connecting via video conference. The annual event brings together many child advocates working on the ground to get updates on how kids in the U.P. are doing, and most importantly, for invited lawmakers to hear this information and make the connection to public policy changes that could improve the lives of children and their families.

During the nearly eight-hour drive, which was my first trip to Marquette and a very beautiful drive since the weather cooperated, it was so easy to see the many barriers that families in the U.P. face when trying to access anything—groceries, child care centers or the doctor, to name a few. When we think about families who may be experiencing additional barriers, such as housing, lack of transportation, unemployment and/or low wages, you can appreciate the need to improve how different service delivery and outreach is structured. (more…)

Unemployed workers falsely accused of fraud need more than just repayment

Added February 23rd, 2017 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

Imagine receiving a letter in the mail telling you that you committed Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud several years ago and owed the government thousands of dollars in benefit repayments and penalties.

Beginning in 2013, workers who became unemployed began filing claims using Michigan’s new online unemployment system called the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System, or MiDAS. These workers did not expect to receive notices in the mail, in some cases long after they had found work and stopped receiving UI benefits, wrongly accusing them of fraud. The letters demanded thousands of dollars in repayment of their benefits plus large penalties, but did not provide information as to why the claimants were determined to have committed fraud. (more…)

Michigan considering replicating Kansas’ failed tax cut “experiment”

Added February 17th, 2017 by Michael Mazerov | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Michael Mazerov

Michigan lawmakers are seriously considering bills to start phasing out the state’s income tax sooner than scheduled under current law. Both proposals would likely force some combination of deep cuts in critical services like education, health care, and infrastructure and increases in sales and other regressive taxes. And, just as Kansas learned from its disastrous “experiment,” cutting personal income taxes won’t likely boost the state’s economy in any meaningful way.

Under current law, the income tax could begin phasing out in 2023, with small tax cuts taking effect (or “triggering”) any time annual revenue growth exceeds roughly one and a half times the inflation rate. Triggers like this, however, don’t make large tax cuts fiscally responsible, as our recent report explains. (more…)

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