Column: Embrace this freedom agenda

Greg McNeilly

‘Twas the Thursday before Christmas, and all through the House, not a creature was stirring – because the state Legislature adjourned and went home to recharge for a big 2018.

(Sorry, if you were expecting verse, this space is more for polemics than poetry.)

Good thing, too, because taxpayers, workers, and families across the state yearning for more freedom (and more cash in their pockets come next Christmas) have a pretty important policy wish list.

The past year saw Lansing make a little progress, but voters are also finding a bit of coal in their stockings. Just weeks ago, lawmakers delivered milquetoast reforms addressing municipal government’s unfunded liabilities crisis. Describing them as a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound would do a disservice to Band-Aids. Taxpayers are still facing down a bill for billions their local leaders have promised without preparing to ever actually pay.

Republicans in the state Senate delivered common-sense Second Amendment legislation when they voted to give law-abiding citizens the right to defend themselves and children in so-called “gun free zones” and the bills now await action in the state House.

The House Energy Policy Committee, led by Rep. Gary Glenn, held hearings holding the feet of bureaucrats on the Public Service Commission to the fire over their attempts to gut recent energy reforms, limit competition, and drive up your electric rates. But lawmakers have been unable to extend huge cost savings through electric choice to families, job makers, or our public schools. This is a wordy way of saying utility monopolies in Lansing are trying to pad their profits as you heat your home.

As lawmakers head home, taxpayers are left dreaming for better things. When Lansing gets back to business next month, they should go big or go back home for good. Let’s start with a freedom agenda.

Eliminate prevailing wage. This fall, voters submitted hundreds of thousands of signatures demanding an end to the state’s job killing prevailing wage regulations. Prevailing wage forces taxpayers to pay inflated costs for government building projects. Thanks to petition signers’ efforts, lawmakers will have a chance to put an end to this ultra-expensive, special interest carve out. It’s an opportunity they should act on immediately.

Mandatory union recertification elections. Every two years, voters head to the polls and elect the leaders who’ll govern at the local, state, and federal level. The results, while far from perfect, are a generally responsive government, and one that understands it will be held accountable.

Union workers deserve the same level of respect from their labor bosses, and those bosses should face the same level of accountability. Mandatory recertification votes every two years would empower labor organizations, especially those who rely on dues dollars taken out of workers’ paychecks, to keep their “bosses” accountable. It would empower workers, and make unions more effective at their founding missions – delivering where it matters for the men and women they represent. What ails us is not an overabundance of choice, it’s too little voice.

Eliminate the personal income tax. Let’s try this again. The state House this year tried and failed to roll back “temporary” income tax hikes instituted by the state’s most notorious job killer, former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. They should try again – and again – until they find a way to keep their promise of income tax relief for Michigan workers. Granholm’s tax hikes need to be permanently blown-away.

Pro-freedom policy changes in recent years have made Michigan better. But it’s renewal requires a lot more relentless positive action. The operative word being action.

These pro-worker, pro-taxpayer reforms would immediately make Michigan a freer, more prosperous state. With strong conservative majorities in the House and the Senate, accomplishing them shouldn’t take a Christmas miracle.

Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.