Open up the MEDC to more sunshine

Tribune Staff • Feb 7, 2017 at 5:00 PM

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers recently introduced legislation to reform Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy argues in a recent blog posting that there is plenty more that could be done to bring openness to state government.

“On Wednesday, Feb. 1, a bipartisan group of some 70 state House members announced that they would support a package of bills to reform Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. That could mean more transparency for taxpayers and voters. That is good news. But there is more to be done, and lawmakers should start by opening up the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to more sunshine,” writes Michael LaFaive, director of the Mackinac Center’s Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative.

LaFaive writes in his blog post that the MEDC “employs a dark methodology when it comes to analyzing its programs.”

“Unsurprisingly, the agency purchases (or creates) analyses showing that its programs are remarkably successful. Its officials boast that both the Pure Michigan and Michigan Business Development Program are effective and roll out numbers to support that claim. But they don’t disclose how they arrived at those figures.

“For the state’s $34 million tourism advertising campaign known as Pure Michigan, the MEDC long ago selected a contractor to estimate its return on spending. That contractor — Longwoods International — was selected on the apparent assumption that it would show positive returns from the program. It did, and the claims have steadily increased every year for the past nine. For 2015, Longwoods claimed that Pure Michigan produced a credulity-straining $7.67 in state tax revenues for every dollar spent by the state on ads.”

LaFaive notes that what isn’t shown is how the agency calculated these figures.

Read the complete post: “Legislators Who Promote Transparency Should Start by Disclosing Corporate Welfare Deals.”

The opinions expressed by bloggers are not necessarily shared by the Grand Haven Tribune or its employees. They are the sole opinion of the bloggers, who are not employed by or compensated by the Tribune.

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