A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials
Posted October 10
The Detroit News. October 6, 2016
Reduce taxes on craft liquor.
The Senate recently passed a bill that would significantly lighten the tax burden on Michigan's craft distilling industry. That's a good call. Just as lawmakers have reined in regulations on craft brewers in the state and allowed that industry to thrive, they should do the same for the craft liquor distillers.
The Senate bill would cut taxes by about 45 percent — to 20 percent from what is currently about a 65 percent markup by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission — on the first 60,000 proof gallons of liquor spirits manufactured annually. Bottles produced after that would be taxed at the old rate.
Michigan needs to update this tax regime to allow its craft liquor industry to be competitive with those in nearby states. The current excessive markups force Michigan's liquor prices substantially higher than surrounding states — ninth highest in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. Indiana ranks 42nd and Wisconsin 40th.
The state's onerous tax structure, combined with federal taxes, unnecessarily stifle investment. Once the state relaxed regulations on breweries several years ago, the beer industry began to thrive. Michigan now ranks fifth in the nation in terms of the number of craft beer facilities, and it's a noted attraction for tourists.
The current tax structure for liquor also benefits large, international manufacturers over small, hometown companies that don't have the same economies of scale. International distributors can afford to get their products on the shelf at wholesale prices. Since the state tax applies to the shelf price, that means global companies with little invested in Michigan pay a lower tax rate.
Many Michigan spirits manufacturers make their products from Michigan-based grains. Freeing up their investment capital would benefit other parts of the state's economy as well.
The tax cut would take away $22 million to $35 million from the general fund, according to an analysis from the Senate Fiscal Agency. But much of the current tax revenue is allocated to the state's liquor commission to help fund regulatory enforcement and administrative costs. Streamlining those costs could help make up for the leaner tax revenue.
Additionally, the tax cut would free up investment funds and capital for craft distillers, which means their businesses will grow. It would also encourage new distillers to open. Both would broaden the tax base, so business growth would offset at least some of those lost tax dollars.
Michigan's craft distilling industry has much room to grow. There are about 40 licensed distilleries throughout the state, according the Michigan Craft Distillers Association. Hubs have formed in the northern and western parts of the state, as well as in Detroit.
Unique, locally sourced spirits also attract new visitors and tourists, an important part of Michigan's diverse economy.
The House should consider speedy passage of the bill to reduce taxes on craft liquor, and let the state's entrepreneurial atmosphere spur new growth and new businesses.
Port Huron Times Herald. October 6, 2016
Voters do not want tax dollars spent on private schools.
This could happen only in Michigan. Lawmakers pass a law that is so clearly unconstitutional, even they recognize it. Then the governor signs it into law. Months later, when it is about to take effect, the governor asks the state Supreme Court if it is legal. The Supreme Court's answer is that it doesn't want to get involved.
Actually, it could happen elsewhere. That does sound a lot like the law Congress just passed to allow lawsuits against Saudi Arabia despite repeated warnings that it would expose Americans, including soldiers, working abroad to legal peril.
In Michigan, voters and taxpayers have always insisted that public tax dollars not be used to fund private and parochial schools. They made it part of the state constitution. It says, "No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid ... directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary or secondary school."
Politicians in Lansing who are intent on dismantling public education ignored that. They included a provision in the current state budget that requires the state to reimburse private schools for performing certain duties required by state law, such as performing criminal background checks on their teachers.
They invented a rationale to justify the unconstitutional payments: Since the state mandated those activities, the state should pay for it. Meanwhile, traditional public schools and have been suing the state for years seeking compensation for Lansing's unfunded mandates.
Why do private schools go to the front of the line?
Gov. Rick Snyder asked the Michigan Supreme Court if it would be OK to ignore the state constitution and do it anyway. He probably expected the Republican-dominated court to go along. Instead, after requesting arguments, it chose to say nothing. We can't hold it against the justices. This is the first time in this mess that someone followed the constitution. The Supreme Court is not the governor's legal counsel. He has plenty of lawyers, both in the executive branch and the outside lawyers hired for the Flint fiasco.
Some of those lawyers will be defending him and the state when taxpayer or public school groups sue over the illegal funding of private schools.
The Holland Sentinel. October 7, 2016
Quick Hits: Five thoughts on this week's news.
1. 'Democracy is not a spectator sport'
Or so the headline screamed above Caleb Whitmer's report Tuesday about voter registration drives. And voters still have time to sign up to cast a ballot on Nov. 8 as the deadline of Tuesday, Oct. 11, is rapidly approaching. As Whitmer reported, anyone not registered to vote will have to sit out the election. The process is pretty simple. All it takes is filling out a form from the Secretary of State's Office and send it to the the local city or township clerk where you live. If you have a driver's license, you're likely registered to vote. The local League of Women Voters have registered about 40 people since the summer. The group's spokeswoman, Penny Shuff, said the presidential candidates may have discouraged some people from voting this year, but that it's crucial to vote up and down the ballot, not just for president. Visit the Secretary of State's website or vote411.org to learn more information.
2. Increasing rates
As Erin Dietzer reported Sunday, suicide rates in the United States has increased for all age groups under the age of 75. In particular, teenagers are most at risk. The most troubling rates were for those aged 15-24 where it's 18.2 percent for men and 4.6 percent for women, making suicide the third-leading cause of death for that age group. We've been saddened all too often these last couple of years after the unexpected deaths of Zeeland sophomore Zachary Kroll, Holland New Tech senior Sean Hill and, most recently, Holland High sophomore Paige Mata. They're not alone either. The Ottawa County Community Health Needs Assessment reported that after six years of declining numbers, youth reporting that they had attempted suicide increased 50 percent in 2013. That's such a shame as suicide should never be an option. Teenagers have their whole lives in front of them, and as adults we see that, but sometimes we don't see the signs of their struggles. It's on everyone to help prevent this awful tragedy from striking. For help in the Holland area, call 616-396-HELP (4357); in Grand Haven, call 616-842-HELP (4357). For all other parts of Ottawa County, call toll-free 1-866-512-HELP (4357). Allegan County residents can call 269-673-6617 or 800-795-6617. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1 800-273-8255. Don't hesitate. If you know someone contemplating suicide or if you see the signs, or you are struggling yourself, call one of these numbers today.
3. Disturbing trend
It's not breaking news that sexual assault on college campuses nationwide is a serious problem. Just look at what's happening on Hope College this semester. It was reported Tuesday that four sexual assaults have been reported in the past month with the most recent alert going out on Monday about an assault taking place over the weekend. Grand Valley State University is dealing with its own problem causing President Thomas Haas to say he feels "devastated" by four recent series of attacks, calling them a "cancer." Behavior like this is not normal. A man, or woman for that matter, should never feel it's "OK" to take advantage of someone like that. Knowing what consent is and isn't shouldn't be something a college-aged adult struggles with. If someone says "no" to a sexual advance, back away. It's that simple. One's own sexual desires should never trump another's desire to not be intimate in any given moment. In the meantime, we also need to do a better job to erase the stigma attached to reporting such incidents. Victim shaming is a real problem and one shouldn't ever feel compelled to not come forward in fear of such retaliation. Hope College and most universities have several avenues of reporting an incident and seeking help. Seek those resources out and help to stamp out this awful behavior.
4. Planning for the future
As Amy Biolchini reported Thursday, Herrick District Library officials are formulating plans now that voters overwhelmingly approved the restoration of a tax that supports the system in August. Library Director Diane Kooiker said staff has many thoughts about possibilities with the additional revenue, but HDL wants public input first. Smart thinking. Some plans are already percolating, such as bringing back Sunday hours and expanding the north branch. Both great ideas, and we can't wait to see what else the library has in store.
5. 31 days
Weekly reminder: There are just 31 days until our long national nightmare that is the presidential election is over.
Petoskey News-Review. October 7, 2016
Weekly kudos to the community.
Here's our weekly look at the people, organizations and businesses that make Charlevoix and Emmet counties a great place to live.
Sad to see her go
Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital CEO Lyn Jenks announced her retirement in late September, having been drawn out of her initial retirement to work for the community hospital in 2005. She was appointed CEO of Charlevoix's hospital in June 2012 and will remain in that position until a suitable replacement is found.
From our perspective, Jenks is excellent to work with. She is responsive, candid, thorough and caring. In her time as CEO of the hospital, she has been an advocate for rural healthcare facilities, seeking to protect funding sources for them while also building their range within the communities they serve.
Jenks has been known to brag about her staff on many occasions, but her leadership is certainly key in making the small hospital as good as it is. The Charlevoix community and the hospital's patients have been lucky the last several years to have Jenks as the facility's top official and her presence there will be missed.
Public Schools of Petoskey officials John Scholten, the district's superintendent, and Kent Cartwright, its chief financial officer, raised funds for Rotary International's efforts to eradicate polio by participating in an Ironman competition Sunday.
Scholten and Cartwright signed up for the event, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, in Louisville, Ky., as part of an international effort by the Rotary organization to raise money for fighting polio.
The pair have led bike rides in the past to raise money for the Rotary Club of Petoskey's part in donating to the cause, but this year Scholten and Cartwright decided to do something closer to International Polio Eradication Day, which is Oct. 24.
"Some may question our sanity for trying to do a full Ironman, but our thought was that we're pretty fortunate to be able to be healthy and be able to bike, swim and run," Scholten said. "There are a lot of people in the world — not as many as there used to be — that just can't because of things like polio."
Local auto dealer Dave Kring is continuing his tradition of giving back to the community.
Last month, Kring's annual "Meat the Needs" donation to The Manna Food Project reached a record size of 1,200 pounds of beef and pork.
The meat is purchased by Kring from local 4-H students at the livestock auction during the annual Emmet-Charlevoix County Fair in August. The donation is then distributed to five local pantries to help feed families around the region.
This month, Kring's dealership also donated a used Chevrolet Malibu to the auto shop at Petoskey High School so that students in the program there could work on an updated model car. To this point, those students had been working on cars that dated back to the 1990s, but this allows them the opportunity to learn the trade on a newer model car with updated technology and systems that they are more likely to encounter on the job.