A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Home Construction

Michigan taxpayers will pay about $243 million over the next two years for home improvement projects for private citizens under the federal stimulus program.

The “weatherization” of tens of thousands of Michigan homes is estimated to cost about $6,500 per home and makes the units more energy efficient.

But the question looms: Why are taxpayers footing the bill for home improvements to private citizens, for which a family of four making up to $41,000 qualifies?

"Why isn't the homeowner doing weatherization on his own? Why does the government have to pay for it?" asked Andrew P. Morriss, a professor of law and business at the University of Illinois. "One response may be, 'People can't afford to pay the upfront cost.’ The easy solution to that: We can loan them the money and they can pay it back over time with the savings."

Green jobs are a top priority of the federal stimulus, and weatherization qualifies.

For example, Oakland County will spend $11.5 million of federal stimulus money on weatherizing 1,681 homes. By comparison, the stimulus earmarked only $1.9 million for the public safety grants for 21 communities in the county.

President Barack Obama has started a campaign to defend the $787 billion spending bill. Members of the Obama administration are spreading out all over the country to talk about the bill.

The weatherization projects in Michigan were delayed so the state could meet the prevailing wage acts required under federal law for weatherization work. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Michigan had designated nearly $200 million as of Sept. 30, with the goal of weatherizing up to 33,000 homes by 2012.

Michael LaFaive, director of the Mackinac Center's Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, said weatherization was just another example of politicians’ fascination with “all things green.”

“Where will it stop?” LaFaive asked.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Director of Education Policy Audrey Spalding describes her latest study on right-to-work law violations in public school contracts and suggests why districts and unions are ignoring the law.


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