Dr. Jim Hines Talks State Government
‘If renewable energies are so good ... then why not get rid of the subsidies and the mandates?’
The original interview was conducted in Midland on Feb. 2, 2018.
EVAN CARTER: Hi, my name is Evan Carter, I’m a reporter with Michigan Capitol Confidential, and today I’m joined by Dr. Jim Hines, who’s a Republican candidate for governor. Thank you for being with us today, Dr. Hines.
JIM HINES: Hey, it’s great to be here. Thanks, Evan.
CARTER: To start things off, tell us a little about yourself. What brought you to Michigan and what do you think is the best part about living in the state?
HINES: Wow, that’s a loaded question. I’m a medical doctor, and a former missionary to the Central African Republic and a small-business owner, and what brought me here was training. After I had come back from Africa — I ran two hospitals there — I felt like I needed more education, and so I came to the Michigan State University branch program in Saginaw and I did a residency in OB-GYN.
CARTER: So, moving into policy topics now: Over the past number of years the state of Michigan has given out about a billion dollars out of their general fund every year in select tax credits to certain businesses. And then last year, they passed two more tax credit packages. Was this a good move, or was this a bad move?
HINES: Well, in my opinion it was a bad move. And I think that the best economic thing that we can do in this state is to decrease taxes. Decrease taxes for individuals, and for businesses, for job providers. When you start picking winners and losers, more often than not, you’re wrong, you’re off. And I think there’s some great examples of that right here in Michigan: solar, batteries, film, where you think something is, or a business is going to be great, and it’s going to produce some great economic benefit for the state, and it turns out not to be. It actually reminds me of Henry Ford, because imagine if you had a horse-and-buggy business back in 1901, 1905, and you asked for a subsidy for your business, and not knowing that Henry Ford would produce the first car in 1908.
HINES: So we’ve seen that over and over again here in Michigan, and you alluded to a couple of new entities – Michigan Thrive and Good Jobs.
CARTER: Yes. Yep.
HINES: And I would have voted against them. And one of the reasons I would have voted against them is because I believe that it cherry-picks or it poaches workers. So, for example, when you start a new business and you’re anticipating two, three hundred workers, or in the case of Amazon, fifty thousand workers – we have holes in every sector in our job market here in Michigan right now.
HINES: We’re short a hundred thousand skill trade jobs. And so where are you going to get the workers? If you could bring those workers from other states, I’d be delighted. It would be great. But the fact of the matter is we don’t have those workers. Our employment rate is the lowest it’s been in 17 years, and so we don’t have the workers to fill those jobs. And that’s probably one of the reasons that Amazon did not choose to come to Detroit, because of the lack of talent among other things. So I’m not for picking winners and losers. I’m for decreasing taxes across the board for everybody, make the job market be good and look good for everybody, not just certain entities.
CARTER: Sure. Now you talked about “I’m for decreasing taxes.” Sort of a thorny issue in the past couple of years has been the state’s income tax rate. Right now it’s at 4.25 percent last time I checked?
CARTER: It used to be at 3.9 percent, then it went up to 4.35, it went down, but it’s sort of been stuck at four and a quarter percent for a little bit. If you were the governor of Michigan, would you sign legislation that returns the income tax rate back down to 3.9?
HINES: I would, to fulfill a promise from [former Gov. Jennifer] Granholm, who increased it to 4.35, to get it down to 3.9, but we would have to be careful even doing that.
HINES: Because first of all, I think fiscal responsibility is critically important for the governing of the state. So we need to be responsible with the funds that we have, and so I would say that I would be for control, or taxes and regulations and spending under control, and decrease taxes when we can. So that decreases in taxes that you brought up from 4.25 to 3.9, it’s about 250 million for every 1/10th of a percent change in the income tax and so that’s $875 million. And so on the surface it sounds great, let’s decrease it to 3.9, but we have to realize, if we’re going to be fiscally responsible, that that’s going to create a hole somewhere, and so you have to look at your budget —
HINES: — and figure out, you know, what you can do without, or what you can change to come up with the money that will be required so that you can have a balanced budget.
CARTER: OK. Changing gears a little bit, as governor, the state executive would have to deal with a number of issues, one of those being the criminal justice system. Are there any specific reforms you think are needed in the criminal justice system? What are your thoughts about those issues?
HINES: Of course, our budget is two billion dollars a year in that category, and by the way I have a son who is a police officer in Dayton, Ohio, and so we talk and compare notes quite a bit.
HINES: One of the things is the civil forfeiture, where there’s a police raid and they confiscate all of the goods for whatever reason, and they keep them, even though the individual is not been convicted of a crime, or if they go through the process, are found to be innocent, it can be very difficult to get those items back and I think that when you look at seizing someone’s property, you’re messing with the Fourth Amendment.
HINES: And so I think that that needs to be changed. Instead of civil forfeiture, I think it should be criminal forfeiture —
HINES: — when you’re convicted of a crime. So that’s an area that needs to be changed. The recidivism rate has dropped over the years. I think it peaked out at around 45 percent in 1998 or 1999 and it’s down to about 29 percent, but I think that it can go even lower, and there are programs that have been utilized, successfully, to bring that rate down even more.
HINES: Our prison system is very expensive. And so if we can get that rate down even to 20 percent, or 10 percent, I think it’s possible with organizations like Operation Transformation, Open Door, where someone who has been in prison and comes out, they perhaps don’t have a job, they don’t have education—
HINES: — they have no money, they don’t have food, they’re gonna go back to what maybe got them in jail in the first place. And so what these programs do is they become a mentor and a coach for those individuals, and we even had one of the Operation Transformation prisoners work for us —
HINES: — under the guidance of a coach and mentor. And so, I’ve seen it firsthand be successful and work, and I think we could decrease that rate which would decrease even further our prison population and that would save us money. Another area would be the bonds. And so, if a professional were to do something illegal and it’s a thousand dollar bond —
CARTER: Ah, cash bonds.
HINES: Cash bonds.
CARTER: Yes, okay.
HINES: Cash bonds. And you know I could pay the thousand dollars —
HINES: — but someone on Medicaid, or something with a low income is not going to be able to pay that, and they’re going to end up spending time in jail. And then there’s the driver’s responsibility issue, too.
CARTER: With the driver responsibility fees?
HINES: With the fees.
HINES: Because those individuals, the fees can be tremendous. And so they either, if they don’t want to drive illegally, you know, then they have problems getting a job, if the job is further than they can walk, and then or they drive illegally, so that’s an issue that needs to be dealt with.
CARTER: OK. Now, changing gears a little bit again to the state’s environment. So in 2008, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the Renewable Energy Standard that says that in the state of Michigan by 2015 we have to get 10 percent of our energy from renewable sources. Then in 2016, Gov. Snyder expanded that; he signed into law a requirement that 15 percent of the state’s energy be gotten from renewable sources. Was this a good move, or is this a bad move?
HINES: It’s a bad move, and I love renewable energy. When I worked in Africa, for the four years, we solarized both hospitals, we solarized our house, and we solarized about six or seven of our urgent care facilities. And this was good, because I was tired of delivering babies and doing surgeries with a flashlight.
HINES: But we could not have afforded it if we had to purchase all the solar panels. So we had a subsidy, and the individual that purchased all those for us, they purchased them, and we did the wiring and the brackets and so forth. If renewable energies are so good, as the proponents say, then why not get rid of the subsidies and the mandates?
HINES: And so I would be a proponent for getting rid of subsidies, getting rid of mandates, and let the open market, the free market, decide what’s going to happen with our renewables.
CARTER: So, beyond the standards set by the state of Michigan, a number of those subsidies are set at the federal level. Other than the mandates set at the state level for getting 15 percent of our electricity use from our renewable sources, what else would you change then, beyond the subsidies, many of which are from the federal level?
HINES: Well, I hear a lot of complaints as I travel the state. I live in Saginaw, and of course the thumb is right there, and there is a number of windmill farms.
HINES: And so I hear a lot of complaints from farmers and individuals because of the noise and so forth, and so there are issues, actually quite a few issues —
HINES: — with those individuals. Again, I like wind power, I like solar power, but of course they’re not completely dependable.
HINES: And they’re not always producing. So when the sun’s not out, when the wind’s not blowing, then you know, you have issues with the amount of energy that’s being produced and so that’s another issue that I think needs to be taken into account. When you say well my farm will produce the electricity for 5,000 houses, it won’t do it 24/7.
HINES: It will do it when the wind’s blowing. And so that’s another issue: You still need other forms of energy, so whether it’s fossil fuels, or nuclear, or whatever, it’s not an independent source. And so I’m speaking from someone who’s used solar, I had a solar house, I love solar, but it’s expensive.
CARTER: Another issue that a governor would have to face is energy prices. Electricity in Michigan is on average, for a consumer, the most expensive of any Midwestern state according to the government agency that tracks those numbers. If you were the governor, what would you do to lower the resident electricity rates in Michigan?
HINES: Oh, Evan, this is a, this is a, that’s almost, you know, an impossible question.
HINES: You have an oligopoly here in Michigan. You have renewables coming into it. I received a letter from someone in the UP complaining of the prices there. I mean, they are so high. I was going to ask you today, how do I answer the individuals in the U.P. that are paying so much, much more than we are paying in the Lower Peninsula, for their energy costs? And so I think that’s going to require a team of individuals to look at that, and try to find ways to decrease the energy.
Because if you just talk to Detroit Electric and Consumers, everything looks on the up-and-up and yet it’s so expensive. So some of it might be, what can the consumers do to decrease their energy usage? So I think that’s part of it. How they can consume energy, and not utilize it, but the conservation part of energy – turning off lights, windows that keep the heat in, doors that are closed and seals and so forth – so these are individual things that consumers need to be aware of, and we all know, I know, I have a leaky door in my house and I just have been lazy and haven’t fixed it, but I just got my energy bill today and it’s a hundred dollars more than I expected.
HINES: So now I’m thinking, hmm. So no more fireplace, and let’s fix the gaskets that are leaking, leaking that heat.
CARTER: OK. As you’ve traveled the state, and as you’ve researched in sort of your campaign, what would you say is the biggest issue facing the state of Michigan today?
HINES: I think it’s a combination of jobs, education, and infrastructure. I would call these foundational things that have to be in order for us to keep our families together in Michigan and to draw families in Michigan. My wife and I have been married for 43 years and we have seven sons.
CARTER: Oh wow.
HINES: And five of our sons have all 15 of my grandchildren, and not a one of them lives in Michigan.
HINES: For job reasons and education reasons. Job reasons – you know, to be a family, and to be successful, you have to have more than just a paycheck.
HINES: You can’t be living paycheck to paycheck. You have to make enough so that you can pay your bills, so that you can invest, so that you can budget, so that you can prepare for college for your kids and so forth, and so we need to increase the amount of money that people are getting here in Michigan, so that involves education. And I think we’re stymied just a little bit. We have a large group of kids that aren’t learning to read. We have high school graduates that are heading off to college.
HINES: They’re like being pushed to college. The career counselors are saying, “Oh you know you need to go to college”, and you have parents that say, “Hey, you know, I want all my kids to go to college” even though their aptitude may not be there.
HINES: And so this is an issue because a third of college freshman have to take remedial classes. So this increases the cost of education, this increases the length of study in schools. Kids are pushed to college, they don’t know what they want to major in, so they end up taking longer to complete, if they complete, and half of our college students don’t complete —
HINES: — within six years. And so it’s an issue of jobs, education, and then our infrastructure. I mean, who would want to live in Michigan if you don’t have clean, drinkable water?
HINES: Or you don’t have roads to drive on. Or your sewage systems are broken. And we’re putting over a billion gallons of sewage, raw sewage and partially treated sewage, into our rivers and lakes and so I’m saying that – I love Michigan.
HINES: I’m a hunter. I’m a runner. I love to fish. I have a boat, a wave runner. With all my kids, you would imagine that I would have a lot of those types of things—
HINES: — and I do. I love Michigan. But as governor, we want to track families and we want to keep families here, and so these are the three biggest areas. One area, since you asked —
HINES: One area that I think that is extremely problematic is the opioid health care crisis. And as you know, I’m a doctor, so this is near and dear to my heart.
My son is the policeman, as I said, he carries the antidote, naloxone, in his pocket, and we want to save lives. We have over a hundred people dying every day from opioid overdose. And we’re trying to deal with it by limiting the use of opioids, which I think is good, it’s great.
But the problem is, is that when you take someone’s opioids away, they’re addicted. Their brain thinking is broken. They will go to heroin or fentanyl. Otherwise, they’re going to go through opioid withdrawal, which is horrendously bad. I mean, it’s bad. Very bad.
So we have to be careful that we fund for the addiction counseling and medication use to get someone healed, get their brain healed. And that process is a process, it’s more than week, it’s more than two weeks, it’s one to two years. So once you’re addicted, there’s a process that you need to go through and we don’t have enough physicians to meet that need, so we need more funding, and we need more – we call them “addictionologists”. So this is someone who specializes in addiction issues with individuals, and they’re very good at it, but we don’t have enough providers to handle that, and so that really needs the attention of our governor and of our state.
CARTER: Well, Dr. Hines, thank you so much for being in here and talking with us today.
HINES: Okay! Great!
CARTER: Stay tuned in the next couple of months, we will be speaking with a number of gubernatorial candidates. You can see more news and interviews like this one at micapcon.com or by looking up Michigan Capitol Confidential on Facebook.
The following question was answered via email after the initial interview.
CARTER: What are some government-created obstacles in the way of poor residents in Michigan?
HINES: There are a number of obstacles that have been placed in the way. First would be the driver’s responsibility fees, which can be very costly. Often, workers can’t afford to pay them, thus they cannot get their driver’s license back. Now comes the dilemma of not being able to get to work because they have no way to get there or they drive without a license.
The second issue is occupational licensing. These require so many hours of training, paying a fee, and passing an exam. The time and cost can be prohibitive and many of the occupational licenses are not necessary, like for braiding hair.
The third would be zoning ordinances, which can prohibit home businesses. Multiple ordinances will not allow an individual to have a business in the home, for example, cutting hair.
Lastly, checking the box on an employment application if you have ever been convicted of a felony. Once you check the box, your job opportunity just flew out the window. I would support measures to alleviate these obstacles and feel that this would be a boom to the Michigan economy and a huge help to our citizens.
This is the second interview in a series of five interviews with Michigan gubernatorial candidates we will be releasing throughout May and June. In addition to this interview with Dr. Jim Hines, we also interviewed Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette, all Republicans, as well as businessman Shri Thanedar, a Democrat. Michigan Capitol Confidential reached out to Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, businessman Bill Cobbs and former Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, all Democrats, but was unable to secure interviews with them.
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.