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CRC Column

The right to criticize government is also an obligation to know what you are talking about. 
-Lent Upson, 1st Executive Director of CRC  


For over 90 years, the objective of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan has been to provide factual, unbiased independent information on significant issues concerning state and local government organization and finance. CRC believes that the use of this information by policymakers will lead to sound, rational public policy in Michigan.

 

CRC's Blog

Check out the latest posts on the Citizens Research Council of Michigan blog, CRC Column:

 

IN THE NEWS

New CRC Report Sets Record Straight on Recent K-12 Funding History

October 16, 2014 Education funding has taken a front row seat in the current political debate. Claims and counter-claims about changes in state funding for K-12 education abound. As a result, citizens are left scratching their heads about what to believe.

To help clear up some of the confusion, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) is releasing a new report on the topic, Making Sense of K-12 Funding. The report explores the recent history of K-12 funding, discusses the important factors affecting the amount of money that school districts receive, and analyzes how much money is available to deliver classroom instruction.

"After listening to the back-and-forth on the issue, we decided it was time to set the record straight," said Craig Thiel of CRC. "While the raw numbers show an absolute increase in state funding in recent years, this fact alone does not paint a complete picture of public school finances -- the actual situation is much more nuanced," added Thiel.

CRC's new report answers three fundamental questions:

1) "Is school funding up or down compared to four years ago?"

Here the answer is an unequivocal 'up'. While total state funding is up over $1 billion from FY2011 to FY2015, the increase is almost exclusively earmarked to satisfy school employee retirement costs, specifically legacy costs arising from the financial market downturn and state retirement system reforms.

2) "Has education funding gone up as much as it could have?"

Here the answer is 'no'. State tax policy and budget decisions effectively stretched the School Aid Fund, leaving fewer dollars available for distribution to K-12 schools. The personal income tax and business tax reforms of 2012 substantially reduced the amount of state tax revenue deposited in the School Aid Fund. Also, lawmakers decided to fund certain state higher education appropriations from the School Aid Fund. Combined, these decisions have effectively reduced the amount of state resources schools receive.

3) "Are individual school districts better off today than they were four years ago?"

An answer to this question is far less definitive. While the amount of per-pupil funding is up, districts are paying higher retirement bills. This leaves fewer resources for other school expenses. Also, total funding at the district level is greatly influenced by the number of students enrolled. Because declining enrollment is a pervasive issue across the state, the vast majority of traditional public school districts must manage with less non-retirement funding.

CRC's report is available at no cost Here.

 

IN THE NEWS

CRC Releases Analysis of Proposals 14-1 and 14-2

September 18, 2014, The Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) has released an analysis of the two statewide questions appearing on the November ballot. This analysis continues a long history of CRC providing relevant, unbiased information about statewide ballot questions to help voters make informed decisions.

Two years ago, at the November 2012 general election, voters were asked to decide on six ballot proposals - five constitutional amendments and one referendum. The proposals dealt with six different topics, and each one was rejected by the voters. At the November 4, 2014, general election, voters will be asked to consider two ballot proposals dealing with the same subject – wolf hunting. While a yes vote on either or both Proposal 14-1 and Proposal 14-2 would permit a wolf hunt during the 2014 season, the Natural Resources Commission, which would gain the authority to establish such a hunt, has indicated that regardless of the statewide vote in November that it would not schedule a hunt this year.

Proposal 14-1 is a referendum on Public Act (PA) 520 of 2012. PA 520 names wolves as a game species and allows the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to establish annual wolf hunting seasons. This act led to the first wolf hunt in Michigan in 50 years in 2013, which resulted in 22 wolves killed.

Proposal 14-2 is a referendum on PA 21 of 2013. PA 21 was enacted in response to the referendum on PA 520; the referendum temporarily suspended wolf hunting in Michigan. PA 21 authorizes the NRC and the legislature to designate a species as game, allowing a wolf hunt to proceed.

Regardless of the vote outcomes on the two referenda, the NRC, which would gain authority to establish a wolf hunting season under each proposal if passed, has indicated that there will not be sufficient time following the November election to schedule a hunt this season. It has stated publicly that there will be no wolf hunt during the 2014 season. The NRC's decision effectively renders moot, the two referenda votes as they pertain to wolf hunting this season.

These referenda will not affect wolf hunting beyond 2014 because a separate citizen-led initiative, the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (SFWCA) was enacted on August 27, 2014. The SFWCA, which takes effect 90 days after the adjournment of this legislative session, reaffirms the powers of the NRC listed above and clears the way for future wolf hunts starting with the 2015 season. The SFWCA contains an appropriation and therefore cannot be subject to a future referendum vote per a constitutional provision.

CRC's full report describing the 2013 wolf hunt, the history behind the two ballot proposals, the citizen-led SFWCA, and the NRC's recent actions to forego a 2014 wolf hunt is available at no cost here.

 

IN THE NEWS

Citizens Research Council of Michigan appoints Eric Lupher as president

September 15, 2014, Eric Lupher, who has served the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) in various capacities for more than 27 years, has been appointed president of the non-partisan public affairs research organization.

Lupher has expertise in government organization, operations and finance, serving most recently as CRC's research director. He has prepared all CRC research for final publication, maintained CRC's nationally recognized website and provided oral presentations and worked with the media and government officials to disseminate CRC policy recommendations.

"Eric's experience in governmental research and behind the scenes at CRC make him the perfect candidate to lead CRC into its next century," said Terry Donnelly, new chair of the CRC Board of Directors, in announcing Lupher's appointment September 12 at the group's 98th annual meeting, held at the Detroit Athletic Club. "His leadership will help ensure that the CRC continues to remain influential in the development of state and local public policy in Michigan."

Lupher just completed a two-year term as president of the Governmental Research Association (GRA), a 100-year-old association of government research professionals. He also represented GRA for six years on the Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council, whose members are drawn from throughout the nation to advise the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) in the development of standards for public sector financial reporting.

Donnelly, a member of the Dickenson Wright law firm who has served on the CRC board since 2001, was elected chair of the board for a two-year term. He serves as bond counsel to a number of public institutions in Southeast Michigan and around the state.

The keynote speaker at the annual meeting was noted urban policy expert and Detroit historian Thomas Sugrue, a professor of history and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Social Science and Policy Forum. Sugrue drew on his decades of research on urban policy to provide insights on the promise and pitfalls of strategies to remake Michigan cities.

 

IN THE NEWS

CRC Report Examines Obesity Costs, Drivers, and Policy Solutions

August 14, 2014, As a state, Michigan has a weight problem. With almost a third of its adult population classified as obese, Michigan has one of the highest average rates of obesity in the country. In a new report, Addressing Michigan's Obesity Problem, Citizens Research Council of Michigan explores why high obesity rates are a problem, the potential causes driving high rates in Michigan, and the most effective solutions at the school, local, and state levels.

In addition to increased health risks, obesity results in significant economic costs for each and every Michigan resident, regardless of their weight status. Individuals, businesses, and governments incur costs from obesity through direct medical expenditures, the state's Medicaid program, reduced employee productivity, increased employee absenteeism, higher disability and other employer insurance costs, and a decline of the state's human capital through higher dropout rates and lower academic achievement in obese students. These factors decrease individuals' quality of life, make-up ten percent of Michigan's health costs, and diminish the competitiveness and economic viability of Michigan businesses.

View CRC's recorded webinar to learn more about CRC's obesity research.

The factors in our environment, which are magnifying the problem, are many and varied and include risk factors such as low nutrition foods in schools and neighborhoods, inadequate amounts of physical activity, insufficient health and physical education in schools, lack of community-focused programs to address obesity, a disconnect between the costs of obesity and who incurs those costs, insufficient coverage of treatment options by health insurers, and many more.

CRC's report identifies roughly a dozen ways that school, local government, and state leaders and policymakers can effectively impact obesity rates in the state. These solutions include:

  • Strengthening the nutritional profile of all foods served on school property and in child care settings;
  • Requiring physical activity during the school day and in child care settings and expand opportunities for activity before and after school hours;
  • Including detailed physical and health education requirements for all grade levels, K-12;
  • Increasing state public health spending;
  • Taxing unhealthy foods and beverages and providing subsidies to make healthy foods more accessible to low-income families;
  • Pursuing local government planning consistent with active lifestyles; and
  • Expanding community programs targeting obesity prevention and reduction.

The full report is available at no cost here.

Appendix A was updated on August 20 to correct a spreadsheet error. Access the revised Appendix A.

 

 

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Recent Publications

Making Sense of K-12 Funding

Statewide Ballot Issues: Proposals 2014-1 & 2014-2   Wolf Hunting

Addressing Michigan's Obesity Problem

Statewide Ballot Issues: Proposal 2014-1
Voter Approval of a New Statewide Local Tax to Reimburse Local Governments for Personal Property Tax Reforms

School District Fiscal Health Improves, but Some Long-term Challenges Remain

2014 Update of the Outline of the Michigan Tax System

State Support of Nonpublic School Students

Reform of Michigan's Ballot Question Process

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated October 16, 2014

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