Where is your money being spent? Michigan government won’t always say

Lansing spends large amounts of money in an opaque way

Children’s first lesson about taxes is learned after trick-or-treating.

Parents take a certain amount of candy and tell their children to pay their taxes. The look of offense is usually worth a laugh before the parents relent and give the candy back. Some of it, anyway.

Children take their second lesson when they earn their first paycheck. Through sweat, long hours, and sometimes-difficult customers, they reap their reward. They look at the pay stub, wide-eyed with outrage, and see how much money local, state and federal governments took from their earnings.

They ask, “For what? Where do they spend the money?”

That’s the question every taxpayer should ask. Sometimes taxes are used for essential services. Other times, however, they’re used to reward businesses with money if they promise to create more jobs. Often, there’s no payback required if the jobs don’t come to fruition. Your hard-earned money goes out the window.

Michigan government officials on both sides of the aisle vote in favor of giving billions of dollars to companies they deem deserving. In picking those companies as winners, they put others at a disadvantage. While many families struggle to keep the lights on and put food on the table, corporations such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, as well as green energy companies, are treated as Too Big to Fail. The question is never whether they’ll get taxpayer money, but when they’ll get it, and how much.

Some corporate welfare agreements in the past had nondisclosure agreements. In other words, legislators created laws to keep you, the citizen, from knowing what happens to your tax dollars.

James Hohman, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center, says of such arrangements, “Most programs the state operates now require (companies) to pay back the money they got if they cut jobs. Or the gifts get lowered if they come in at less than advertised. And sometimes (the state will) simply move the goalposts so that a company can collect even if they produce less than expected — though typically, when they lower job creation requirements, there is a commensurate drop in the cash they can get.”

“But if the company’s dead, you can’t get blood from a turnip.”

If you want to know where your elected officials serving you in the Michigan Legislature stand on corporate welfare, or if you want to tell them how you feel about it, you can go to this legislative website. It will help you find your representative and senator, along with the relevant contact information.

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email her at

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.