News Bites

$757 Million Taxpayer Dollars Handed To A Few Lucky Companies This Year

Michigan officials project that for the 2017-18 fiscal year, the state will write checks totaling $757.9 million to companies that received grants authorized under one program operated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state agency in charge of business subsidies.

These are actual cash outlays, using tax dollars paid by other state taxpayers to cover checks written to recipients, who include automakers.

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Compensation For Federal Employees Up 36 Percent In Michigan Since 2000

Federal employees in Michigan have seen their total compensation (salary plus benefits) increase 36.3 percent this century.

In 2001, federal employees here had an average total compensation of $81,326 (adjusted for inflation). Total compensation increased to $110,837 in 2017.

A New York Times story published on April 22 story suggesting that public servants were losing their foothold in the middle class.

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It’s Not Called The Great Lake State For Nothing

Michigan is the state with the highest percentage of its area that’s covered in water, with five times the water-covered territory of the average state.

In Michigan, 41.5 percent of the area is covered in water, edging out Hawaii (41.2 percent) for the top spot. The national average is 7.0 percent. Arizona was last at 0.3 percent. The information comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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For Legislature, University ‘Tuition Restraint’ Means Twice The Inflation Rate

Michigan universities would get an additional $28.6 million from the state next year if they cap student tuition and fee increases below a certain rate. This year’s cap is 3.8 percent, and Gov. Rick Snyder has recommended the same for next year.

State budget officials recently projected a 2018 inflation rate of 1.7 percent, and 2.0 percent for 2019. So the rate set by lawmakers to reward universities for tuition restraint still lets these institutions raise prices on students by around twice the rate of inflation.

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Detroit People Mover Loses Almost $10 On Every Ride

The Detroit People Mover monorail system downtown lost an average of $9.89 on every trip it provided in 2016. The cost per trip was $10.51 and the average fare was 62 cents, according to a website that tracks transportation data.

Detroit People Mover is owned by the Detroit Transportation Corporation. This component unit of the city of Detroit receives local, state and federal funding to operate the train.

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Detroit City Buses Cost Taxpayers $3.52 Per Trip; Average Rider Pays Just 76 Cents

Detroit’s municipal bus service loses $3.52 on every trip riders take, according to a website that tracks transportation data across the country. The National Transit Database reports that each bus ride costs the city $4.28 on average, with the average fare level covering just 76 cents of that. That means taxpayers are providing a $3.52 subsidy for per trip.

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Michigan Teachers Nation’s Highest Paid Given State’s Lower Cost Of Living

Michigan public school teachers are the highest-paid in the nation when the local cost of living is factored into comparisons. In terms of its purchasing power, the average Michigan teacher pay of $63,878 is equivalent to $71,773 elsewhere.

That’s what a nonprofit called EdBuild discovered when National Public Radio asked it to investigate. The organization used 2015-16 average salaries from every state to do the calculations.

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How ‘Ineffective’ Michigan Teachers Get $26k More Than ‘Highly Effective’ Ones

Under the Utica Community Schools teachers' contract, a teacher deemed “ineffective” can collect as much as $26,000 more each year than a colleague of equivalent seniority who is rated “highly effective.” The difference is due to extra compensation given to teachers who have accumulated academic credentials beyond a basic bachelors degree requirement, which is a common practice statewide.

The non-profit public policy think tank Brookings Institution stated, "the fact that teachers with master’s degrees are no more effective in the classroom, on average, than their colleagues without advanced degrees is one of the most consistent findings in education research."

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Detroit Closed 194 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In 2016-17

The city of Detroit issued 194 orders to shut down medical marijuana and marijuana-related facilities during the two year-period stretching from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2018, city data show. Detroit’s Deputy Press Secretary Tiffany Crawford said that some locations that received shutdown orders closed voluntarily, while others “required assistance by the Detroit Police Department for closing.”

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Breaking Tax Cut Promise In 2011 Cost Michigan Taxpayers $4.3 Billion (So Far)

In 2007, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed what was labeled as a temporary tax hike, taking the Michigan income tax from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent. One provision would have reversed the increase by 0.1 percent a year starting in 2011.

But in 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder and a Republican Legislature canceled all but one of those annual rollbacks. As a result, since that year Michigan income taxpayers have sent a total of $4.3 billion more to Lansing than would be the case had the tax cut promise been kept.

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As part of our efforts on government transparency, we obtained data on the compensation of most public employees in the state. This information has been used to fact check claims about salaries, verify data from other open records requests, and hold government spending accountable.

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