The media recognize that without a trusted, independent source of data and analysis, the flow of information about state and local government issues would be controlled by two sources — the governmental units themselves and interest groups. CRC is that trusted source. Here are the latest articles in which CRC is cited:

NewsBriefs, October 2009

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan estimates that the state could save more than $400 million by trimming its prison system to the same level as surrounding states. The current budget cuts a little more than $100 million.

Michigan Technology News, December 28, 2009

  • In 2001, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan said Michigan’s budget situation heading into the 2001-02 fiscal year appeared to be the most dire since the payless paydays of the 1950s.

  • MI Prison Population Shrinks
    MIRS Capitol Capsule, December 23, 2009

    Craig THIEL, director of state affairs for the Citizen Research Council of Michigan, said Michigan has been dealing with a high incarceration rate for a while now and needed to craft a solution.

    He said Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM started the program to speed up parole hearings that would translate to people getting out of prison. Thiel said those aren’t early releases, but inmates who are put on parole supervision.

    “This is the second year of decline for the Michigan prison population, and this might be a trend of decline,” he said.

    He said departments are under a tight budget, so when cuts are to be made, Corrections must make adjustments since its budget is so large.

    Among Michigan’s neighbors, Wisconsin and Minnesota also saw cuts in their inmate count, according to the U.S. Justice Department figures.

  • Experts weigh new state budget principle
    The County Press, December 23, 2009

    “The appropriations process is the sole province of the Michigan Legislature,” said Craig Thiel of the Citizens Research Council, a nonpartisan organization that researches issues concerning state and local government.

    “In exercising this authority, the legislature — along with the governor — is bound by strict balanced-budget requirements,” he said.

    That means lawmakers would have to ensure that planned spending doesn’t exceed the money available, Thiel added.

    “The legislature also can raise taxes. Therefore, in a sense, the balanced budget requirements are a form of pay-as-you-go budgeting already,” he said.

    He said a PAYGO-type plan might have benefited, for example, the Promise Scholarships, which were discontinued in the latest budget. Instead of the state budgeting a specific amount for scholarships, it could provide money based on the number of students who need financial aid over a certain time period.

  • The Good, the bad, the ugly
    The Rockford Squire, December 17, 2009

    The Bad–Since the early 2000s, bi-partisan organizations such as the Citizens Research Council and University of Michigan economists, have been predicting that the current system to fund public education would soon be broken. Well, it’s almost 2010, and the system is on life support with barely a pulse.

  • Stop the games on school funding
    Livingston Daily, December 13, 2009 [Also see The News-Herald and the Midland Daily News and MiBiz.com]

    Our system of funding public education is dysfunctional and need of a systematic overhaul. The governor and Legislature know this and have avoided the advice of studies and recommendations from distinguished organizations to address the structural funding crisis facing our schools, including The Center For Michigan (www.thecenterformichigan.net), Business Leaders for Michigan (formerly Detroit Renaissance; www.businessleadersformichigan.com), the Citizens Research Council (www.crcmich.org) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (www.mackinac. org). In addition, Granholm appointed a bipartisan Emergency Financial Advisory Panel, co-chaired by former Govs. William Milliken and James Blanchard and stacked with knowledgeable Lansing insiders, that offered recommendations on how best to avoid ongoing budget crises like Michigan is experiencing now. The governor never acted on her panel’s recommendations.

  • Political careerism the root of growing “Economic Development” empire
    National Center for Policy Analysis, December 16, 2009

    At least 58 separate types of “economic development” entities or programs are currently operating in Michigan, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The scope of this activity is broad and includes grants; discriminatory tax breaks; direct and indirect subsidies; subsidized loans and loan guarantees; financing authorities; “enterprise zones” and “incubators”; job training programs; and more. Probably a majority of Michigan’s 1,859 local governments participate to some degree, plus most or all state universities and community colleges.

  • Fix public schools or else
    Oakland Press, December 13, 2009

    There have been countless studies and recommendations from distinguished organizations to address the structural funding crisis facing our schools, including: The Center For Michigan (www.thecenterformichigan.net); Business Leaders for Michigan (formerly Detroit Renaissance) (www.businessleadersformichigan.com); Citizens Research Council of Michigan (www.crcmich.org) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (www.mackinac.org).

  • Washtenaw County school officials say state funding system for education is broken
    Ann Arbor.com, December 13, 2009

    That report joined a chorus of other voices that winter, including the non-partisan Citizens Research Council, in pointing out the problems with the way the state funds schools.

  • Stop the games on school funding
    Livingston Daily, December 13, 2009

    Our system of funding public education is dysfunctional and need of a systematic overhaul. The governor and Legislature know this and have avoided the advice of studies and recommendations from distinguished organizations to address the structural funding crisis facing our schools, including The Center For Michigan (www.thecenterformichigan.net), Business Leaders for Michigan (formerly Detroit Renaissance; www.businessleadersformichigan.com), the Citizens Research Council (www.crcmich.org) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (www.mackinac. org). In addition, Granholm appointed a bipartisan Emergency Financial Advisory Panel, co-chaired by former Govs. William Milliken and James Blanchard and stacked with knowledgeable Lansing insiders, that offered recommendations on how best to avoid ongoing budget crises like Michigan is experiencing now. The governor never acted on her panel’s recommendations.

  • National Pride at Work, Inc. v Jennifer Granhom, City of Kalamazoo and Michael A. Cox
    State of Michigan in the Supreme Court Appeal from Michigan Court of Appeals

Rockford Public Schools Newsletter, December 2009

Since the early 2000’s, bi-partisan organizations such as the Citizens Research Council and University of Michigan economists, have been predicting that the current system to fund public education would soon be broken. Well, it’s almost 2010, and the system is on life support with barely a pulse.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, December 8, 2009

According to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, at least 58 separate types of “economic development” entities or programs are currently operating in Michigan.

[Mt. Pleasant] Morning Sun, November 29, 2009

Downtown development authorities date back, in Michigan, to 1975. The idea, according to the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, was to promote downtowns and central business districts.

Downriver Sunday Times, November 27, 2009

This staggering figure represents the difference between estimated costs of CDHPs growing 3.5 percent annually, an upper bound for such plans, and the upper limit of 9 percent annual increases projected for PPO premiums by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Grand Rapids Press, November 24, 2009

Can government shrink quickly enough? With a steady drumbeat of bad economic news, tax revenue projections are revised downward each day, prompting mayors of the six largest cities in Kent County to talk about unprecedented sharing of services and perhaps even consolidating some departments across city boundaries. An analysis from the Citizens Research Council explores the possibilities.

Grand Rapids News, November 20, 2009

The six mayors’ arguments echo a Citizens Research Council of Michigan report released last month that concluded there are six laws blocking or make intergovernmental collaboration difficult.

Lansing State Journal, November 17, 2009

Two years ago, the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan noted that if Michigan reduced its incarceration rate to the Great Lakes average, the state could save $500 million.

Dome Magazine, November 17, 2009

Feature article on Mr. Ryan’s retirement, Mr. Guilfoyle’s arrival, and the importance of CRC in difficult times like these.

Crain’s Detroit Business, November 16, 2009

Craig Thiel, director of state affairs at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, said revenue growth coming out of the recession is likely to be tenuous.

“It’s really going to be driven by the job picture in the state,” he said. “Consumption, for sales tax, and income, for income tax. And both of those are tied to job growth.”

MIRS Capitol Capsule, November 10, 2009

He also calls for long-term budgets much like the Citizens Research Council endorsed recently and he criticized Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM for “disappearing” from a large portion of this year’s budget process. He refused to criticize the budget deal that Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.) and Senate Majority Leader Mike BISHOP (R-Rochester) molded this year.

Detroit Metro Times, November 11, 2009

But in addition to screwing over those folks, legislative Democrats would have to agree to quickly phase out the surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax — without replacing the revenue lost to the state in any way. This makes no sense at all, according to the nonpartisan Citizens’ Research Council, or CRC.

Lansing State Journal, November 10, 2009

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan has studied regional cooperation at length. It notes that a number of state laws limit the field of action. For example, a public employee can’t be put in a “worse” situation on wages and benefits due to a cooperative venture.

A 2009 CRC report stated, “Laws that hinder the ability to achieve savings through collaboration put public officials in the difficult position of needing to reduce the service levels or eliminate those services completely to achieve savings.”

The Michigan News, November 5, 2009

“Governor Granholm is using the budget crisis as an excuse for a short-sighted power grab that will not save money,” said Cox. “If the Governor was truly interested in game-changing reforms, she should have pursued the proposals of the Citizens Research Council, Center for Michigan, or Business Leaders for Michigan that save billions reforming costs like state employee benefits.”

Business Mirror, November 5, 2009

“Rescue voting from the long ballot,” decried Earl Ryan, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan in an Ann Arbor Rotary Club meeting in January 1999.

Detroit News, November 2, 2009

“In this environment, the budget is a year-round endeavor. The upcoming election makes it more difficult. It’s hard to envision a lot being done on reforms when the budget takes up all the time,” said Craig Thiel, director of state affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, an independent think tank on public finance and policy matters.

“We have seen some signs of reform on the spending and revenue sides. But even if we do get reforms, will they be in place in time to make a big difference in the 2011 budget?”

Detroit News, November 2, 2009

The state budget crisis, rising foreclosures and other issues “have all combined to create challenges for our leadership,” said Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research group. “The fiscal challenges are huge,” she said. “The issue right now for local government is how they’re going to maintain services, whether they’re going to be able to maintain services, and how to determine the most efficient way to provide services.”

Detroit Free Press, November 1, 2009 [also see Livingston Daily]

Some communities have looked to the county level to consolidate services such as assessing or purchasing.

“Oakland County is a leader in this,” said Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

A recent report by the Citizens Research Council found that the number of public sector jobs in Michigan fell by 5 percent between 2000 and 2008, less than the 11 percent decline in the private sector in that time but still a significant change in what most people think of as an era of expanding government.

Change the formula used by the state to distribute more than $1 billion in annual motor fuel and registration tax receipts to local road agencies to incorporate measures of highway use.

“It’s hard to imagine what happens when (federal) stimulus money runs out,” Craig Thiel, a budget expert at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan told USA Today.

The result is a potential financial cliff for states. “It’s hard to imagine what happens when stimulus money runs out,” says Craig Thiel, a budget expert at the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Idea 26: Publish a 10-year budget outlook as part of the budget process. …

“It’s kind of like making a fixed monthly payment on a credit card,” said Jeff Guilfoyle, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, which conducted an analysis of Proposal S. “If you charge something else, it just takes you that much longer to pay off the balance.”

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan says the state’s public sector employment has been trending downward since mid-2005, but that this is not visible looking only at employment levels since December 2007, when things dramatically worsened in the private sector.

As CRC points out, however, some of the differences are readily explainable.

“Governments do not experience the same downturn in the demand for their services during a recession,” the CRC stated. “In addition to this ‘demand’ explanation, there are several other factors contributing to the stability observed in public sector employment over the business cycle.”

Bobb and his academic czar, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, want to use the bond money to build eight new schools and modernize 10 others. The district’s average school is 60 years old, according to a Citizens Research Council of Michigan report.

“The situation is dire,” said Bettie Buss, a former city budget analyst who is now a senior research associate for the Citizens Research Council. “The state is not in a position to bail them out. Even if the politics were there, the money isn’t.

“It is going to require these brand-new elected officials to make some very difficult decisions.”

With the auto industry in free-fall and an unemployment rate that leads the nation, the size of Michigan’s state government has become a target for complaints, said Craig Thiel of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

“People are hammered all the time about Michigan losing jobs,” Thiel said. “They look at the private sector and think it’s time for the state government to take its hits.”

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan released a report Monday noting that the number of public employees in the state has been trending downward since mid-2005 as the poor economy has forced school districts and governments to trim staff.

Reducing the cost of Michigan’s prison system to meet the average cost of neighboring states. Savings: $400 million. Expert source in agreement: Citizens Research Council.

There have been countless studies and recommendations from distinguished organizations including the Center for Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan, the Citizens Research Council and Mackinac Center as well as a report I wrote as state superintendent of schools in 2004 that found our school funding system was unsustainable and required more shared services and consolidated districts to address runaway health and pension costs.

Whether it’s increased demand on government services during hard times or the way tax collections fall that may delay when personnel changes are made, government jobs have been more stable than private sector positions across Michigan since the official start of the national recession, according to a new report by the Citizens Research Council.

Michigan never recovered from the recession earlier this decade, losing 21 percent of its jobs since 2000. Since the new national recession began in December 2007, the state has shed 378,000 jobs. …

Employment in Michigan’s state and local governments has been trending downward since 2005, according to a report released today by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. While state government employment as been relatively stable, local employment is down and higher education employment is up.

The 12-page report, Michigan Private and Public Sector Employment Levels Over The Business Cycle shows that Michigan’s public sector employment is “not very large” when compared with other states. The report found that in 2006, Michigan ranked 45th with a total of 482 state and local full-time workers per 10,000 residents. The average of all states was 539 workers per 10,000 residents. …

Working for the government has provided more job security than the private sector during Michigan’s long economic slowdown, according to a report released Monday by the Citizens Research Council.

But both the public and private sector have lost jobs since 2000, and the pace has accelerated in the past year, the report said. …

Public-sector employment in fields like education, public safety and health care services in Michigan has remained “fairly constant” as private-sector jobs have steadily evaporated since the U.S. recession began in December 2007, a new report concludes.

Private-sector employment has declined by 11 percent, or 387,900 jobs, during the 20 months since the recession began through July 2009, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan said in a report released Monday. …

Exerpts from Michigan Private and Public Sector Employment Levels Over The Business Cycle

Public sector employment in Michigan has been on the decline in recent years, but at only half the pace of loss in private sector jobs, according to a new report from the Citizens Research Council. …

The number of public employees in the state has been dropping since mid-2005 as the poor economy has forced school districts and governments to trim staff, adding to the state’s already high unemployment rate, according to a new report released Monday.

The study, by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, notes that local government employment levels dropped 6 percent between 2000 and 2008, while K-12 jobs dropped 12 percent, and state government jobs dropped 16 percent.

Craig Thiel, the director of state affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, said state law dictates each municipality can determine which exemptions it wants to include.

“The law is permissive saying it is up to local communities,” he said.

The council said of the 22 communities that collect income tax, Detroit collects the most at $288 million. Port Huron collected $6.68 million in 2007, according to the council. …

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan was awarded the Most Distinguished Research award for 2009 at the 96th Annual Conference of the Governmental Research Association in Washington, D.C. The winning report, “Approaches to Consolidating Local Government Services,” explores the means available in Michigan for cooperation among cities to provide services. CRC won the award in 2008 for “Michigan’s Fiscal Future.”

But the key question is whether the governor can transfer money within a department from one project to another when the legislature has clearly set the spending levels for both projects. Granholm’s deputy spokesperson, Megan Brown, emailed the Michigan Messenger this morning with a copy of a 1993 Michigan Supreme Court ruling that ruled that the governor does have the power, through the State Administrative Board, to transfer money within departments.

A 1997 report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan seems to back up that authority:

Finally, intradepartmental transfers also may be made by the State Administrative Board, a six-member board consisting of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and State Treasurer. In this case, six members of the executive branch have the authority to revise enacted appropriations without the consent of the Legislature. Though challenged by the Legislature on the grounds that the 1921 statute granting the Board the authority to make transfers was repealed by the Management and Budget Act of 1984, the State Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that the Management and Budget Act failed to repeal this authority, thus upholding the Board’s authority to make intradepartmental transfers.

And about that “living within its means” statement from Bishop, the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan is the first off the block to pick up on something that should have been glaringly obvious to everyone involved: Eliminating the surcharge on the MBT without replacing the revenue is going to further exacerbate our structural deficit. MI-Tech News brings us the entire story originally reported in Gongwer:

A plan by Senate Republicans to create $300 million in new revenue for the current fiscal year in exchange for phasing out the surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax will add to the state’s structural deficit in the long run, said Craig Thiel with the Citizens Research Council.

The proposal calls for delaying a scheduled increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit and curbing the state’s film production tax credit.

The plan (HB 4514, SB 838) brings in less than the surcharge it is intended to replace, Mr. Thiel said, and that will be compounded in 2012, the last year of the surcharge, with scheduled reductions in the income tax rate.

“It’s really intended to raise revenues in a net increase in one year only,” Mr. Thiel said. “That’s to satisfy a cut in the school aid budget that wasn’t palatable.”

Assuming flat revenue from the new source, which Mr. Thiel said is a reasonable expectation, the state would be short $200 million in 2012 on top of any losses from the income tax rate cut.

“You basically made the problem worse,” he said of the plan.

A plan by Senate Republicans to create $300 million in new revenue for the current fiscal year in exchange for phasing out the surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax will add to the state’s structural deficit in the long run, said Craig Thiel with the Citizens Research Council. …

The fact of the matter, as experts ranging from the Citizens’ Research Council to Michigan State University economist Charles Ballard keep pointing out, is that Michigan has been living for yearly a decade with a budget that is structurally unbalanced by at least $1 billion each year.

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, in a study issued last November, pointed out that in the face of Michigan’s weakened economy, consolidation is a way of significantly reducing the cost of government. Short of full governmental consolidation, combining functions and services can avoid duplication, gain economies of scale and increase the level of services beyond what’s possible if the services are provided independently, the research council said.

Story about Earl Ryan’s retirement and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

There are other options than the tired formula of cutting government and increasing taxes. Organizations as diverse as the Mackinac Center, the Center for Michigan, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan and the governor’s “Defining Moment Report of the Emergency Financial Advisory Panel” have laid out ways that Michigan can restructure, reform and reinvent itself — to no avail.

It’s worth noting, though, that according to a Citizens Research Council report last month, Michigan legislators have on average 40% more time to pass a budget than their counterparts in six other states with full-time lawmakers — and they still don’t get it done until the last minute. (Or four hours beyond, as happened in ’07, when they had to start shutting off the lights in state buildings.)

“We have one of the highest spending on corrections in the country,” said Craig Thiel, director of state affairs of the Citizens Research Council.

He said talking about prison reform means talking about reducing the prison population.

That will reduce costs for health care, electricity, food and personnel, he said.

Thiel said studies have shown that lower prison rates don’t necessarily mean higher crime rates, nor do higher incarceration rates always lower crime rates.

The Michigan Constitution contains one of the nation’s strongest balanced budget provisions in its requirement that no money may be withdrawn from the Treasury “except in pursuance of appropriations made by law,” meaning that state expenditures may not be incurred without an adopted budget, according to the Citizens Research Council report of Aug. 13.

In a presentation on Michigan’s budget problems, the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council noted that if Michigan reduced its incarceration rate (then 499 inmates per 100,000 residents) to the regional average (356 inmates per 100,000 residents), the state would save $500 million. …

Go back to the CRC report. Michigan is an outlier in the region. It spends $2 billion on corrections while Ohio spends $1.8 billion and Indiana less than $700 million. Yet, even Michigan doesn’t imprison most criminals. As is the circumstance elsewhere, Michigan only sends a fraction of convicted felons to prison each year. The rest are on probation or parole. Yet about $9 in every $10 Michigan spends on corrections goes to imprisonment.

Each was initially brought to light through the work of one outfit, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. It’s one of our state’s hidden gems, and an absolutely essential component of our now-shrunken public policy system.

Founded way back in 1916, the CRC has established a long, long record of unbiased, nonpartisan, accurate research that has been at the heart of thoughtful, fact-based discussion of public issues.

There are other options than the tired formula of simply cutting government and increasing taxes. Organizations as diverse as Mackinac Center, The Center For Michigan, Citizens Research Council, Detroit Renaissance, the governor’s own Defining Moment Report of the Emergency Financial Advisory Panel have laid out ways that Michigan can restructure, reform and reinvent itself — to no avail.

As a result, Michigan’s average length of stay for prisoners from 1995 through 2005 was 16 months longer than the average of other Great Lakes states. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan estimates that if pre-1992 release rates had continued through 2006, the state would have had 2,500 more releases per year.

Options exist beyond the tired formula of simply cutting government and increasing taxes. Many organizations have laid out ways Michigan can restructure, reform and reinvent — organizations as diverse as the Mackinac Center, Center For Michigan, Citizens Research Council, Detroit Renaissance, even the governor’s own “Defining Moment” Report of the Emergency Financial Advisory Panel.

In addition, the state road tax formula is based on road miles, not road use, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan notes, so local governments responsible for maintaining lightly traveled roads in the Upper Peninsula get more money per capita than Metro Detroit counties.

The Citizens Research Council (CRC) of Michigan today issued a report stating that Michigan’s already fragile cash flow position couldn’t handle the transition from an Oct. 1-to-Sept. 30 fiscal year to the more traditional year.

Without use of stimulus money, the $7,316 per-pupil foundation grant for schools would have to be cut about $510 (or 7%), according to calculations from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. Granholm recommended a $59 cut per pupil in February; the Senate passed a cut of $110 per pupil, combined with $238-million worth of cuts in other school-related budget categories.

The bottom line, the bond agencies say: Soon many cash-strapped governments might see higher interest rates that could make it too expensive to finance public improvement projects that some communities need badly. “We’re going to see an erosion of infrastructure,” said Bettie Buss, a senior research associate with Citizens Research Council, a nonprofit public affairs research group. “You’re not going to see new parks, new construction, new improvements in buildings and major maintenance.”

While complete private to public pay comparisons are difficult, as Ballard acknowledges, the National Association of State Personnel Executives does an occasional survey of state civil service pay and benefit costs. In a 2007 report using 2006 data, Michigan’s average base civil service pay of $49,715 ranked sixth of the 41 responding states, while the $25,703 in benefits ranked third of the 39 responding states, according to an analysis of the data by the Citizens Research Council.

Local governments, school districts and universities all suffer when state government is late in adopting a budget, but trying to impose a new deadline on when state government must enact a budget may do little to alleviate the concerns, a report from the Citizens Research Council suggests.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has named Michigan Department of Treasury executive Jeffrey Guilfoyle president.

  • Silver Lining
    Jack Lessenberry Essays and Interviews, August 3, 2009

We also know our state is in bad shape when it comes being able to provide the services that a modern society requires, though this is much less well understood. Last week I saw an interview the Gongwer news service did with Tom Clay.

Clay, who retired a couple of years ago from the non-partisan Citizens’ Research Council, worked on finance and budget matters for the state for decades, and then studied them as an analyst.

Cox said organizations like the Center for Michigan, Detroit Renaissance and Citizens Research Council have identified a variety of cost-cutting strategies which could help the state absorb the tax reductions.

Political leaders must be willing to muster the courage to confront four essential elements – two spending and two revenue issues – to help establish a stable long-term state budget, former top state budget officer Tom Clay said in an interview. The willingness to confront spending in corrections and health care, along with establishing an income tax as well as a sales/use tax that does not run behind the economy in terms of providing revenue, are essential to creating a more functionally stable budget, he said. …

Mr. Clay spent more than 30 years working in finance and budgetary areas for the state, joining state government in 1966. In fact, he developed the first revenue estimates for the state on what the newly enacted income tax of 1967 could raise. After retiring from the state, he became an analyst for the Citizens Research Council before retiring from that post in 2008.

When Bean detailed how much the state’s prison population had soared in recent decades, the audience gasped. According to the Urban Institute, between 1980 and 2003, the Michigan prison population more than tripled, increasing from 15,148 to 49,357. The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council reported that prison population has grown by 538 percent in the last 34 years, ballooning Corrections’ expenditures by more than 5,200 percent in the last 34 years, from $38 million to about $2 billion.

A new report issued by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan notes that in 2008 assets of the Michigan state employee and the Michigan public school employee systems both declined by a bit more than 21 percent. The state municipal employee retirement system’s portfolio losses amounted to nearly 25 percent.

  • Pension Jitters
    Jack Lessenbery’s Essays on Michigan Public Radio, July 14, 2009

There was another set of new numbers that also came out yesterday, numbers that didn’t get nearly as much attention.

But these figures are just as grim. The non-partisan, non-profit Citizens’ Research Council took a look at public pension systems, and what they found was fairly terrifying. What the Gongwer News Service now casually refers to as the “economic collapse of 2008” devastated these plans. The state employees retirement system lost more than a fifth of its value. The municipal employees system, almost a fourth of all its assets. Statewide, something like $25 billion dollars in pension funds seems to have vanished. That has enormous implications. Not so much for the beneficiaries. Michigan”s constitution guarantees them that money. I presume that means the taxpayers will have to cover any shortfall. Granted, in the long run, these plans may recover some of their value. But to the extent they don’t, it’s one more gathering storm.

Like other pension systems both public and private, Michigan and its local government retirement programs have taken a hit due to the financial meltdown of last fall. The Citizens Research Councilhas chronicled this and made some recommendations to soften the blow in a report released Monday.

Prior to the economic collapse of 2008, state and local pension system assets totaled $105 billion, according to the CRC. …

The Corrections Department went from 1,990 in 1970 to 16,100 in 2008. The rest of state government went from 43,752 to 34,699 in the same time frame.

From 2001 forward, figures from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan show a general retrenchment of state employment, state police included. So, this isn’t about singling out the state troopers for cutbacks; the state is simply that overextended.

And on Wednesday, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, which has been working with the Legislative Commission on Statutory Mandates, released its report outlining how other states handle the same predicament in which Michigan finds itself. …

The Council notes that 28 other states have constitutional or statutory mandates requiring officials to identify a cost to locals and in many cases requiring funding from the state to implement those policies.

Michigan could follow the models of California and Massachusetts in how it goes about reviewing existing law’s impact on local governments and their cost, the Council report states.

In addition, local governments in Michigan should be given more powers to present their grievances and have a declaratory judgment on the issue come within a year. And while the Court of Appeals has been designated to hear Headlee issues, the panel should have a separate entity looking at these specific matters or an independent review board should be created to deal with the cases as they come, the Council recommends.

The state would then take an aggregate of the issues raised and determine a reimbursement to the local communities.

For future laws, the fiscal agencies should work collaboratively to estimate potential costs to locals and locals should be required to be a part of an information sharing system so the fiscal agencies can have a better picture of a bill’s potential impact, the Council report said. communities.

The Council recommended also looking at Rhode Island’s system for making state reimbursements to the locals.communities.

“A vigorous enforcement process is needed to investigate local governments’ claims of unfunded state requirements, determine relevant costs, and develop a legislative response when claims are found to be legitimate,” said CRC Director of Local Affairs Eric Lupher.

The task before the Legislature is huge. The state faces a budget shortfall of at least $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2010, and the deficit seems to be growing every time we turn around as forecasts for state revenue keep declining. There is little in the way of fat for legislators to cut anymore. The budget reductions that legislators need to make will cut into meat and bone — basic state services. There are plenty of ideas out there about how to balance the budget, from non-partisan organizations like the Citizens Research Council to avowedly ideological groups like the Mackinac Center.

“That money isn’t theirs to spend,” said Eric Lupher, who studies local government for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “You would expect that they’re down to their last resorts and their last places to go for cash flow.”

The Citizens Research Council is currently working on a study comparing Michigan to other states in terms of mandates on local units of government and Mr. Daddow said they hoped to integrate some of that research into the commission’s final recommendations.

There is already a significant amount of cooperation taking place, particularly in areas such as fire protection, water and sewer, said Eric Lupher, who has studied the issue for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

But while many fire departments have worked out mutual aid pacts, or other cooperative ventures, there are still far too many fire departments, which has expensive consequences because of high capital costs, advocates of regionalism argue. Lupher says the ideal size for a fire protection unit is greater than most cities, but smaller than a county.

There are other areas ripe for cooperation as well, Lupher says. Local governments may not improve efficiency by combining residential assessors but could benefit from sharing commercial assessors who need greater technical skills to work with more complex projects. Police departments won’t necessarily save on road patrols but can provide better services through combined crime labs. “Certainly, there is room for greater efficiencies, I don’t think anyone would dispute that,” he said.

Again in the 2009-10 budget year beginning Oct. 1, policymakers will rely heavily on a one-time fix, some $900 million in federal stimulus grants, to avoid more dramatic cuts. When that money is gone in 2011, the state will face a steep cliff between too-high costs and too-low revenue, according to the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council.

Michigan’s comparatively low gasoline tax levy is likely the chief factor in the state’s ongoing struggle to fund badly needed road and bridge projects, said Craig Thiel, director of state affairs for the nonpartisan, Livonia-based Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

“When you look at motor fuel taxation across the entire United States and look at state and local taxes, Michigan’s pretty much down at the bottom,” he said.

Using stimulus dollars to plug ever-deepening budget holes is dangerous, says the independent Citizens Research Council of Michigan, because it will create a steep cliff between spending obligations and tax revenues when the money runs out in two years. Despite the warnings, Michigan’s political leadership is setting up the state to walk off that cliff.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, led by Earl Ryan, president, and Craig Thiel, director of state affairs. The CRC is the Sergeant Friday of public policy research groups, always laying out “just the facts.” For more than 90 years, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan has provided independent information about significant issues concerning state and local government organization and finance. The council has provided a constant drumbeat on the issues of the state’s leaders neglecting and ignoring the structural budget crisis.

Like the other recommendations made by the Center for Michigan and the Citizens Research Council, Detroit Renaissance’s work has not been acted upon by the state’s elected leadership. Each of these three organizations have offered the tools to help our state elected leaders reform, restructure and reinvent itself. …

Like the other recommendations made by the Center for Michigan and the Citizens Research Council, Detroit Renaissance’s work has not been acted upon by the state’s elected leadership. Each of these three organizations have offered the tools to help our state elected leaders reform, restructure and reinvent itself.

An editorial comment by Matt Johnson, the Upson-Miller Fellow with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Since 2001, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan has been speaking out on tax and budget issues responsible for our current $1 billion-plus state budget shortfall.

State employee benefits — mostly for health care — are a huge issue. And in K-12 education, the CRC reports that $6 of every $10 spent by local school districts goes to employee benefits. So next time you hear someone wring their hands over school funding “for the kids,” stop them and ask whether school employees are willing to do what autoworkers and just about everybody else in Michigan has done: give some of the benefits back.

“It’s a new phenomenon,” said Eric Lupher, director of local affairs for the Citizens Research Council, a nonprofit public affairs research group.

Bettie Buss, a senior research associate with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, says the Charter Commission should pursue changes that provide enough detail for a “high probability of good government,” but not so many details that officeholders are bogged down.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a respected government affairs research group, projects the structural deficit will average $850 million a year through 2017 without dramatic changes in the way state government operates.

“I really don’t see them escaping the current year without being reliant almost entirely on the federal recovery package,” said Craig Thiel, an analyst with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

In a report issued two weeks ago, the highly respected and non-partisan Citizens Research Council(CRC) pointed out the potential pitfalls of at using stimulus money without also making big structural changes in spending and taxing. In a nutshell, they found that the stimulus money:

      • Will not be sufficient to prevent very deep spending cuts.
      • Will mask the size of the cuts really needed to address the structural budget deficit.
      • Will not last long enough to carry the state through the period of sharply reduced tax revenue caused by the recession.
      • Will leave us on a “budgetary cliff” when the stimulus money runs out, leaving Michigan to manage its financial affairs on its own.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, the most highly respected, nonpartisan outfit we’ve got, warns that we are heading over a cliff — their word — unless the state fixes its budget problem Though they don’t openly say so, this could involve a total and prolonged shutdown of some or all state services, as early as this October, possibly next year, and certainly the year after that.

The independent, nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan has been tracking federal reports on the flow of dollars around the country. It reported that, in 2006, Michigan ranked 44th (out of 50) for federal funds received per capita.

Mogk is the author of a 1993 article produced for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan on the 1973 charter revision.

Last week, the respected and independent Citizens Research Council of Michigan warned of a fiscal collapse in 2011 if drastic government reforms aren’t put in place now — and that’s without factoring in the disappearance of GM or Chrysler.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) today warned that Michigan lawmakers must keep their eyes on the economic cliff the state will be facing in two years and use the federal funding as a bridge.

&uot;The Michigan Legislature’s immediate attention is focused on the development of the (Fiscal Year 2010) budget; however, the more pressing issue and difficult task is crafting a solution for the state budget that will take effect in 18 months, the (FY 2011) budget,” reads the CRC’s briefing. …

My guess, though, is that the state will use a combination of cuts and federal stimulus money to patch things together for yet another year or two and leave the longer-term thinking to the leadership to be elected in 2010. It’s the wrong course as the Citizens Research Council pointed out in a State Budget Note this morning:

“The State has been operating with a structural deficit, a deficit that will not be eliminated by a more buoyant economy,'” the respected CRC said. “… It has met the constitutional balanced budget requirement principally by using nonrecurring sources of income totaling over $8 billion … and has not solved the basic structural problem. Federal stimulus dollars … will provide the State with $7 billion, which will help in the short run, but which may make more difficult the resolution of the structural deficit.”

The CRC notes that the stimulus money “will mask the size of the cuts necessary to deal with the structural deficit” and will create a revenue “cliff” when the money is gone.

The Citizens Research Council, Michigan’s oldest public policy research organization, notes in a recent report that “Michigan is ill-prepared to deal with the current cyclical problems associated with the national economic recession because it has failed to deal with the underlying structural deficits that have existed since FY 2000.”

Because many people likely haven’t read the document, the Citizens Research Council plans to publish online a series of papers analyzing the pros and cons of the current Constitution, how a revision might affect state and local government efficiency and other issues related to the Con Con question, said Eric Lupher, director of local affairs for the Council.

One consideration in its papers probably won’t be cost, since Lupher said, “if the document needs to be fixed, it should be fixed, no matter the cost.”

If population determined federal funding, Michigan would have received $48 billion more in 2007 than it did. Because of that fact, an official from the Citizens Research Council said Wednesday that Michigan needs to focus on getting more federal grants and procurement projects, particularly in the areas of defense, homeland security and the environment, where it is underperforming. …

Virtually every business, civic and community group recognizes the need to restructure state government. Detroit Renaissance says we need it; Citizens Research Council says we need it; the Detroit Regional Chamber says we need it. I agree, but it is important that we remind ourselves, why restructure?

According to Craig Thiel, with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, the full scope of Michigan’s needs is unknown.

“The trouble is putting a dollar sign on it,” Thiel remarked.

Democrats admit spending needs to be cut, but they are having trouble figuring out where. Various research groups — the Citizens Research Council, Detroit Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Renaissance and The Center for Michigan — have previously issued compilations of targeted cuts that total more than $1.5 billion.

Corriveau elaborated by saying many prisoners aren’t serving life sentences, they’re released and commit crimes now. He cited a report from the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michiganshowing that despite the state’s higher per-capita incarceration rate than neighboring states, Michigan doesn’t have one of the lowest crime rates. In fact, Michigan is one of the most crime-laden states in the region. This imbalance shows money needs to be used more effectively to reduce incarceration and crime, Corriveau said.

A prior proposal to raise the gas tax by nine cents over three years and the diesel tax by 12 cents was estimated to raise $500 million a year once the entire tax increase was phased in, according to the Citizens Research Council.

  • Get Out of Jail, Free
    Newsweek, March 12, 2009

    Craig Thiel, director of state affairs at the nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michigan, says that answering to the governor could put additional pressures on board members and how they make decisions.

  • Detroit council gears up for Cobo challenge
    Detroit Free Press, March 10, 2009

Eric Lupher, who studies local government for the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council, said his analysis suggests the council is on stronger legal ground.

“It would appear that” council’s “disapproval is final,” he said.

A review of the state budget by the respected Citizens Research Council of Michigan shows the state used more than $7.8 billion in one-time funding sources between 2001 and 2007.

“There’s been reluctance on the part of two governors and several sessions of the Legislature to make the kind of permanent changes in policies that would help bring spending pressures and revenue growth in line,” says Thomas Clay, former state budget official and an analyst for the Citizens Research Council.

“That’s understandable, because elected officials are not interested in angering their constituents, advocates of programs don’t want them cut and residents don’t want their taxes increased. But we’ve seen eight years of more one-time patches than permanent changes and the tax structure is not fundamentally different than it was eight years ago.”

The Citizens Research Council, Michigan’s oldest, nonpartisan, public policy research organization, in its recent report: Michigan’s Weakened Financial Position and the Problem of Dual Deficits, notes “that Michigan is ill-prepared to deal with the current cyclical problems associated with the national economic recession because it has failed to deal with the underlying structural deficits that have existed since FY2000.”

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, an independent nonprofit, provides a decent primer on Michigan’s tax system, including information on Proposal A, which places a cap on taxable value.

The Citizens Research Council estimates that the average per pupil cost for retirement, health insurance, wage and step increases, operating expenses, etc. will increase by $550.

The Citizens Research Council (www.crcmich.org), Michigan’s oldest and most respected nonpartisan, public policy research organization, in its recent report sums up Michigan’s inaction. The report, Michigan’s Weakened Financial Position and the Problem of Dual Deficits, notes “that Michigan is ill-prepared to deal with the current cyclical problems associated with the national economic recession because it has failed to deal with the underlying structural deficits that have existed since FY2000.”

Without exact details, no ironclad analysis is possible. Still, there are knowledgeable people at places such as the Citizens Research Council who have raised questions about whether a permanent retirement increase would save money overall.

Now really smart people at the Center for Michigan, Citizens Research Council and Detroit Renaissance have been working on this problem for years and have realistic and creative lists of cuts. Which is good news because we’re at least $1.4 billion in the hole this year. And with the U.S. Senate snatching some of our stimulus check back, it’s time to get out the buzzsaw.

Eric Lupher, a local government and development expert with the Citizens Research Council, said it’s very difficult to predict what impact a recall might have in a city that is trying to reinvent itself.

“You could talk to 50 different economic development experts and get 50 different answers,” Lupher said.

But he said it’s best not to tempt fate when dealing with a city’s reputation.

“You’d rather have good press than bad press, especially with some of these down-and-out cities,” Lupher said.

Michigan can rally to those points – but only if they lead to actual results. Michigan’s fiscal house is not in order. As the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council has reported, the state has a structural deficit. And Michigan has relied often on one-time money to balance the budget this decade.

Bettie Buss, a senior research associate with the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, argues that county governments should receive incentives to reorganize so they can more efficiently offer voluntary contractual services to local governments. Counties in California sometimes have countywide fire departments and emergency medical service units and offer extensive services through sheriff’s departments.

In the role of Yosemite Sam in this tale, though, I cast Craig Thiel of the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council. By e-mail last week, Thiel issued the following “whoas”: “A couple of things to consider with early-outs:

“1. The assumptions used to fund the pensions of those taking part assumed a monthly pension payment of a certain amount, now the amount would be higher.

“Where is the money going to come from? Presumably from future contributions, which means we will have to increase the contribution rate to cover these costs.

“2. There is an issue of immediate costs. The pension program also pays for retiree health. Current employee health is covered by the districts. Yes, districts ‘save’ money from a reduction in health-care costs (although this may not occur if they rehire 1 for 1), but the retirement system now has to pick up the cost of health care. Unlike the pension benefit, which is pre-funded, the health-care benefit is covered with current resources. So there is a definite cost here. This cost will be borne by current budgets.

“3. This proposal would cost shift, not save money. It would take costs that schools have to cover and shift (them) to the state. The numbers we do not have. However, we are pretty confident with the general outcomes.”

Currently, Michigan puts more people in prison and keeps them there for much longer and at a higher annual cost than other Great Lakes states. Loosening sentencing guidelines and releasing non-violent criminals, elderly and very sick prisoners could reduce Michigan’s incarceration rate to that of neighboring states. It would also save us hundreds of millions, according to the Citizens Research Council and Public Sector Consultants.

The Citizens Research Council (www.crcmich.org), Michigan’s oldest and most respected nonpartisan, public policy research organization, in its recent report sums up Michigan’s inaction. The report, Michigan’s Weakened Financial Position and the Problem of Dual Deficits, notes “that Michigan is ill-prepared to deal with the current cyclical problems associated with the national economic recession because it has failed to deal with the underlying structural deficits that have existed since FY2000.”

If Michigan were getting its per-capita due in support, we’d have garnered an additional $47 billion in 2006 alone, according to the Citizens Research Council. That includes $15 billion in direct payments to run much needed programs at the local and regional levels.

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council issued a report this month that stated it plainly: “Michigan State government finances enter calendar year 2009 ill-prepared to deal with the upheaval that the current recession is bringing. Whereas the State had amassed over $3.9 billion in major fund cash reserves to deal with the 2001 recession, today it faces an accumulated cash deficit of approximately $400 million that it must finance through internal and external borrowings.”

CRC analysts advise three avenues for lawmakers: spending cuts, revenue increases and one-time resources.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, an independent public policy think tank, disagrees. It reported this month that the state “is ill-prepared to deal with the current cyclical problems associated with the national economic recession because it has failed to deal with the underlying structural deficits that have existed since fiscal year 2000.”

Craig Thiel, director of state affairs for the Citizens Research Council, said he’s not surprised policy makers are considering erasing the deficit this year with one-time carryover cash and federal relief.

“The size of the hole this year is not that substantial, but that’s been the policy for years. The track record is to choose the path of least resistance and use one-timers to solve long-term structural problems,” Thiel said.

“Just when we thought we had exhausted all the one-timers, the federal government provides money to continue that trend.”

The council reports the state has used about $8 billion in temporary stop-gap measures to eliminate deficits over the past eight years.

Encouragingly, the discussion might be heading that way. Residents must accept “a different form of government,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop said in an interview this month. The independent Citizens Research Council of Michigan also concluded that state government has not adjusted to the loss of tax money caused by the recession.

Trimming just one year from the average prison term would save about $400 million, the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council reports. Other business groups project savings if food service and transportation are privatized. (Sacred cow alert: The state’s largest employee union also represents state corrections workers.)

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, in a June 2008 report on Michigan’s corrections system, cited growth in corrections spending as the second-largest contributor to the state’s ongoing structural budget deficit, after Medicaid spending increases.

And the structural general-fund deficit, which the council has projected will reach $6 billion by fiscal 2017 without substantive state government policy changes, is fueling an unprecedented push for corrections reforms by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

In a 2008 study, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan said that nearly every area of the state budget faces spending pressure increases that outpace projected revenue growth.

In the general fund, corrections and health care are major causes of the deficit.

The council has projected that without substantive policy changes by fiscal 2017, structural deficits would grow to $6 billion in the state’s general fund and $3.6 billion in the SAF.

The problem, according to the non-partisan Citizens Research Council, is a chronic and fundamental imbalance between state revenue and spending that dates back to the late 1990s, when John Engler was governor. Even if we were enjoying good times economically, the CRC says in a recent report, existing revenue sources could not support current programs and services. It’s what’s called a “structural deficit,” as opposed to a recession-induced “cyclical deficit” and it’s something Michigan politicians have consistently failed to address. And by employing short-term fixes and avoiding the real problem, state leaders have only made matters worse.

A similar point was made this month by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, which said, despite the 2007 increase in the personal income tax rate from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent, structural budget deficits remain.

State finances, the report said, “are ill-equipped to deal with the upheaval that the current recession is bringing.”

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan released its report of the state’s financing this month and has concluded that this recession could be much harder on the state and its residents.

In 2000, the state general fund budget was $2.1 billion, the school aid fund was $985 million and the budget stabilization fund — the so-called “rainy-day” fund — was $1.3 billion, for a total of $4.3 billion.

By 2007, according to the CRC report, the general fund was $982 million, the school aid fund was $94 million and the budget stabilization fund was $2.1 million, for a year-end balance of $1.1 billion. …

Ultimately, what Detroit must show ratings agencies is that it has the money to repay its debts, said Eric Lupher, who studies local government for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

The advantage Detroit has is that, as a government entity, it has a high likelihood of continuing to exist, while private corporations can disappear and leave creditors in a lurch, Lupher said.

“As a creditor, you would ask: Is your ability to recoup your money any different today than it was yesterday?” he said.

Heading into Friday’s Revenue Estimating Conference, the Citizens Research Council of Michiganreleased a new report concluding the state is “ill-prepared” under its current structure to tackle the problems associated with a national recession. …

Lawmakers head into 2009 facing dual budgetary challenges and state finances that have weakened in recent years, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

The report highlights elected officials’ task of tackling both an ongoing, structural imbalance between spending pressures and revenue, and the budgetary effects of the national recession.

When the Michigan legislature resumes work after the first of the year, it be looking at a budget deficit expected to reach 400 million dollars by September 30th — the end of the state’s fiscal year. Governor Jennifer Granholm has promised not to raise taxes – like last year – to boost revenues. Citizens Research Council of Michigan Director, Craig Thiel, says that means the most likely answer will be cuts in state services.

Thiel says if the legislature doesn’t cut spending the only other alternative is to increase revenues. Thiel says increased revenue could come in the form of sales or income taxes that the Governor opposes. He says spending reductions could involve the state’s Corrections Department, where one of every five general fund dollars is spent.

Fix the road ratio. About $1 billion in state tax revenues are dedicated to road work each year in this state, but southeast Michigan hasn’t been getting its fair share. A 2008 study by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan found that Keweenaw County in the Upper Peninsula received a whopping $569 per person in transportation funds while Wayne County only got $89 per person. By every conceivable measure — the number of drivers, the number of roads, the amount of commerce traveling on those roads, and the number of taxpayers in Wayne County compared to its northern counterpart — that ratio is indefensibly out of whack. The Citizens Research Council argues that this can be resolved by indexing revenues to highway miles traveled. Whatever the measure, the revenue sharing ratio must be addressed by lawmakers in 2009.