News Story

Here's Where the Candidates Stand In Michigan's 42nd House Race

Nick Fiani, Rich Perlberg, Dale Rogers and Lana Theis sound off

There are four candidates running in Michigan’s 42nd district Republican primary.

They are Brighton School Board president Nick Fiani, former reporter and editor Rich Perlberg, teacher Dale Rogers, and Brighton Township treasurer Lana Theis.

The district is located in Livingston County and contains the city of Brighton, Genoa Township, Green Oak Township, Hamburg Township and Putnam Township. The district has a 63 percent Republican voting base. The race is to replace Rep. Bill Rogers who is term-limited.

Capitol Confidential asked the candidates about several issues that will play an important role over the next few years. Specific questions were asked in regards to the teacher pension system, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), the film subsidy program, and the state prevailing wage law.

Workers for the state of Michigan, like virtually all private-sector workers, received defined contribution, 401(k)-type accounts. Currently, non-charter public school teachers do not. Would you support closing the teacher pension system to new employees? Would you support legislation that encourages local governments to close their pension systems?

Fiani: “Yes to both. I think it is absolutely necessary that we start shifting new teachers to a 401(k)-type system and phase out the current teacher pension system. In my opinion, the current system is not sustainable nor economically viable."

Perlberg: “The criteria for a good pension program should be whether or not it is sustainable. People should be aware of the benefits a pension brings but also of the ticking time bomb an underfunded program resembles. Closing the program should be on the table but isn’t the only option. We have to have the necessary measures in order to afford plans we put in place.”

Rogers: “Perhaps, [but] I would first need a full analysis of the transition costs. At the very least new teachers should have the option for a 401(k)-type account, especially since the majority of teachers burn-out within the first five years of teaching and never realize the benefit of the monies paid on their behalf into the pension system.”

Theis: “I support the use of defined contribution over defined benefit for these systems. Please understand, however, due to the actuarial process, the costs for the pension system may go up in the short-term because there are no new funds coming in to the system. I support it because the long-term savings are there, and it makes the long-term liabilities definable.”

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is known as the state’s corporate welfare arm and gets about $300 million in annual funding while having the reputation of lacking transparency.Would you support transparency reforms to the program? Should the state of Michigan be giving out subsidies and tax credits to select companies?

Perlberg: “The MEDC improved slightly under Synder, but with no follow-up and review it is very hard to see if anything improved. The state should lower the cost of companies across the board and not get in the business of picking winners and losers.”

Rogers: “YES! YES! YES! to MEDC transparency reforms and NO! NO! NO! to the state of Michigan giving out subsidies and tax credits to select companies.”

Theis: “All of the state’s spending should be directly accessible via an online database, similar to Missouri's database. I've advocated for this since 2007 and, with the help of two Brighton board members, we took our township books online at that time. We were the first in the state to require that this be done through resolution. I don't think government should be in the business of picking winners and losers; the free market (or ‘invisible hand’) is a much better determination of success potential.”

Fiani: “Ideally, we should shift the funds to other areas. I think there needs to be a phaseout for the subsidy program. I believe in certain, very specific aspects, these can be a good investment. But the way they are utilized right now, it may not be the most efficient use of tax dollars."

Relatedly, Michigan spends $50 million per year on subsidies for moviemakers. Do you support the state film incentive program?

Rogers: “No! I absolutely do not support the state film incentive program. Warner Brothers studios with their billions in profits should not be receiving any monies from the taxpayers of Michigan.”

Theis: “I support getting rid of this program. My county gets about $12.5 million for road repairs from the state. That $50 million could go a long way to repairing roads in counties that are underrepresented by the PA 51 road distribution equation.”

Fiani: “No.”

Perlberg: Believes it is “subjective” to just pick a random industry like films. “It is a foolish policy to promote movies in Michigan; it came at the expense of killing the Michigan promise in order to pay off Hollywood movies.”

Michigan has a prevailing wage law that mandates union-scale wages be paid on construction work funded by tax dollars. Should this law be repealed?

Theis: “It should. When a developer was constructing a building that would become a state police post, it was determined by the state that prevailing wage applied, and his costs went up 25 percent overnight, with no benefit. Nothing changed about the project except that the labor costs increased.”

Fiani: “Yes. I am a strong proponent of repealing the state's prevailing wage laws. I think that will be essential in helping reduce costs to fixing Michigan's roads. This is a good business practice."

Perlberg: He required more information before making a final judgement but said it is something he would look into. “If the program is proven to be inefficient, I would consider reform.”

Rogers: “I would support repealing the prevailing wage law with certain stipulations: A) There should be a stipulation for companies that use Michigan workers for construction projects to be given consideration over companies that would use out of state workers. B) Companies that accept state contracts for construction work should be required to verified that all of their workers are in the country legally via the E-Verify system.”

The election takes place on Tuesday, August 5.

Editor's note: Michigan Capitol Confidential will be reporting and writing about key primary races leading up to the election on Aug. 5. The series of stories are designed to provide readers with some insight into candidates who have said they support free market issues. The stories are not endorsements and readers are encouraged to give every candidate a serious look before the election.

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.