Seven months of silence is too long.
That was the message Patrick Wright told the Senate Family and Human Services Committee this week.
Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, filed suit last year against the Department of Human Services over how 70,000 home-based day care workers were unionized and became state employees. Their union dues are taken out DHS subsidy checks given to the day care workers who take in low-income parents getting help from the state.
DHS employees and representatives of the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council have refused to answer questions to media. DHS even told legislators it couldn't say how the MHBCCC was still active months after its funds were cut by the legislature, citing the impending lawsuit.
Then, DHS came up with a way it could comment.
A DHS spokeswoman said at a later hearing that they had sought an Attorney General opinion and were able to answer questions. However, the spokeswoman said, all questions would have to be put in writing, given to the chair of the committee and then submitted to DHS. Then DHS would seek the AG opinion regarding whether the department could respond.
"The time has come for it (the executive branch) to defend itself for its actions," Wright told the committee. "If this is not an underhanded scheme to favor a political ally at the expense of low-income families and taxpayers, could it please explain why? If this is not an assault on the power of the legislature, please explain how expanding the class of people who can be unionized and ignoring the appropriations process shows the proper respect for that branch of government. Seven months of silence is too much."
Wright warned the committee of the ramifications if "stealth unionization" continued where anyone who has a business whose clients get aid from the government could become a government employee.
"Doctors, landlords, grocers, merchants - could all be next. Whose business doesn't, in some way, shape or form, have some sort of clientele that doesn't get aid from the government?" Wright said.
AVERAGE TEACHER'S SALARY: $57,000
Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's director of education policy, told a House Education Committee this week that the state's average public teacher's salary was $57,000.
Van Beek also made his case that school finances are not as dire as portrayed during state budget cut discussions.
Van Beek stated that total school revenues (state, local, federal - all of the tax dollars) going to schools since 2000 were up 14 percent after adjusting for inflation. He stated that state tax revenues have declined 7 percent since then. Van Beek told the committee that state-based school revenue was down after adjusting for inflation, but that there had been a ten-fold increase in federal money.
Rising school employee health insurance costs are now $1,200 per pupil and have grown 44 percent since 2000, after adjusting for inflation, Van Beek said. He showed results from a Mackinac Center survey that showed teachers only pay 4 percent of premiums (for a family plan) whereas the state average is 22 percent and the national average is 26 percent.