What Troy cricket field giveaway says about Michigan
Lawmakers pay for a single cricket field in Troy, rather than defraying costs for all students to play sports
The 2024 Michigan budget is reminiscent of an Oprah episode in which everyone in the audience receives a car, with one important difference. Private parties — Oprah Winfrey, her show, her sponsors — foot the cost of those gifts.
But in the case of the Michigan budget, the gifts flow from taxpayers, who did not agree to them. State budgets often contain gifts for specific interests, and one recent gift — $900,000 for a new cricket facility in Troy — shows how targeted the gifts can be.
The sport of cricket is popular in some countries. A history website known as The Collector calls cricket the second most popular sport in the world. If you want to know how popular it is in Michigan, good luck. There are no readily available statistics because the sport is in its infancy here. In fact, the Michigan High School Athletic Association does not list it as an official high school sport.
Yet, state lawmakers felt the Detroit area could use a cricket facility at a cost of close to a million dollars. The Detroit Free Press notes that a request for the field was made by a resident in the Detroit area. It took just three years for the request to be fulfilled.
If people want to engage in sports and even raise money for a proper venue to be built, that is great. Sports should be encouraged as a way to stay healthy and learn lifelong skills. There are numerous benefits including a correlation with better academic outcomes.
However, it is inappropriate to spend $900,000 on a venue for a little-played sport. How many low-income children have missed out on the opportunity to play a youth sport and therefore lost the opportunity to compete in high school?
If a younger child cannot afford the sometimes exorbitant cost of a sport, he or she will be at a disadvantage when it comes to compete among other children who had the opportunity to develop their skills.
Why didn’t the Legislature consider earmarks for students who cannot afford football, baseball, softball, or gymnastics? There are many questions left unanswered, because the process lacks accountability.
If the state is going to dole out taxpayer dollars, we should know exactly what data was used to justify the necessity of an almost $1 million facility for a sport most residents cannot describe. The Free Press made the point that cricket was once the most popular sport in Detroit. In the 1850s.
James Hohman, director of fiscal policy at Mackinac Center, wrote that Troy should not get a $900,000 cricket field just because “some politician asked for it.” He posits that the “best way to discover the best project is through open legislation and a competitive application process.”
The way it works currently is that during the state budget negotiations, legislators can request “pork projects” for their districts. How the process unfolds from there is murky. The public is not privy to much of the budget negotiation process.
From the nearly $1 billion giveaway in pork projects this year, one can guess the process is more about compromise and politics than process that carefully considers spending taxpayers money.
MIRS News reports that GOP members of the Legislature who supported the governor’s 2024 budget and voted for immediate effect received more money for district projects than those who did not.
Every dollar spent by Lansing comes from taxpayers. People who work for a living have to watch their hard-earned money being spent without any transparency — and even without any consideration of whether the spending is a good use of the money.
Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.