News Story

Ideas to Fix Michigan: Refresher Course

On Monday, November 14, Gov. Rick Snyder told 600 guests that he keeps the Mackinac Center's "101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan" near his desk and "refers to it often." As we approach his first anniversary as governor, there's a sense that Michigan is starting to climb out of a deep hole, with real progress in business tax, education and municipal governance reform. Much work remains though, so this is a good time for a "refresher course" on other key Mackinac Center "Ideas to Fix Michigan" published a couple years ago in a Detroit News feature with that title. Here's one:

Idea: Devolve Michigan State Police road patrols to county sheriff deputies, dramatically downsizing the department and reserving to it specialized functions beyond the capacity of local law enforcement agencies.

Why: The cost of employing a state trooper is substantially greater than the average cost of sheriff deputies, yet deputies can write traffic tickets and perform other routine law enforcement functions just as well. In addition, the MSP is reportedly overburdened with excessive layers of "command" and administration.

Benefit: This would save approximately $65 million annually, according to an analysis performed by Center staff in 2003.

How: Pass a law that contracts this activity out to county sheriffs, downsizes the MSP, and sells off many MSP facilities.

Obstacles: State troopers are represented by a powerful  union, and department spokespersons have not hesitated to use scare tactics to preserve the privileged status of these elite government employees. Legislators are particularly vulnerable to these tactics, and also fear energetic political opposition from the MSP union.

In addition, some communities "free-ride" on the presence of nearby State Police posts, shifting the cost of law enforcement services from local taxpayers to statewide ones. Many of these posts would no longer be necessary under this proposal, so those communities will exert political pressure on legislators to oppose the reform.

Finally, "That's not the way we've done things in the past" still resonates in a government establishment that hasn't come close to absorbing the full reality and magnitude of Michigan's need to dramatically "right-size" its government apparatus.

Stay tuned to CapCon in coming days for more reform idea "refresher courses."

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.