Special events, indoor promotions increase winter tourism

Capital News Service

LANSING — Vacationers in the Grand Traverse region this winter can do a lot more than ski.

At Shanty Creek Resort, skiers can take a shuttle to downtown Bellaire, home of popular breweries like Short’s Brewing.

Black Star Farms winery in Traverse City now offers horse-drawn sleigh rides on the winery’s grounds.

As of last year, visitors can snowshoe a trail connecting Brys Estate Vineyard, Bowers Harbor Vineyards and the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery of Old Mission Peninsula.
Continue reading

Snyder’s higher-ed budget bump a departure from GOP peers

Capital News Service

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder’s move to increase higher education funding separates him from a number of gubernatorial peers in Republican-run states who are proposing dramatic cuts to public universities.

“We have a governor who is keeping higher education as a priority as he starts his second term,” said Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, which represents Michigan’s 15 public universities.

Under Snyder’s budget proposal, Michigan’s universities would receive an additional $28 million, or 2 percent, to go toward university operations. Community colleges would receive an additional $4.3 million, or 1.4 percent, in state funding.
Continue reading

Jobs for veterans a priority for state, local agencies

Capital News Service

LANSING — Officials working to reduce high unemployment among veterans now attack the issue from both ends — they prepare veterans for civilian jobs and educate employers on how to hire veteran talent.

In 2013, the veteran unemployment rate in Michigan was 10.6 percent, the second highest rate in the U.S. To combat this, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) created programs that bring veteran talent and employers together.

Local organizations are also doing their part to connect veterans to employers in their own community.

“It’s a matter of breaking down that wall between employers and veterans, and giving them the opportunity to communicate,” said Kristina Leonardi, director of strategy for Veterans Affairs.
Continue reading

Barely making it — minimum wage still isn’t enough for single people in Michigan

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan minimum wage earners are not making enough to afford their most basic needs like housing, food, clothing or transportation, statistics show.

The Michigan League for Public Policy argues that the minimum wage of $8.15 is not enough to live on. In Lake County, for instance, a single adult, full-time worker would need to make $10 an hour to meet basic needs, according to a 2014 study by the league. In Grand Traverse County, the amount goes up to $11 an hour. In Manistee County, you can get by on $9.94 per hour.

Not a single county lists $8.15 per hour or less as meeting the basic needs wage.

Take rental housing. According to Megan Bolton, research director for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, homeownership rates declined and are still declining after the foreclosure crisis. This has resulted in a huge surge in the number of renters.
Continue reading

Student loan tax credits could keep graduates in Michigan, bill sponsor says

Capital News Service

LANSING — A bill to provide tuition tax credits for people paying off student loans is designed to keep young graduates in Michigan, but not everyone is convinced the plan will work.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., an East Lansing Democrat, has introduced a bill to ease college graduates’ loan burdens for up to five years after graduation if they live and work in Michigan. The bill would give qualifying graduates a tax credit up to 50 percent of the amount paid on student loans — up to $2,150 for an individual, and $4,300 for a married couple per year.

“The governor has talked a lot about talent retention,” Hertel said. “I sat down with some of our major universities, and one of the issues we have is the overwhelming number of students that are leaving the state, and not moving into our state.

“For people that are working here, staying here and investing here, we would be able to provide a tax credit for the first five years to try to get them on their feet, and try to get them back as part of the economy.”
Continue reading

West Michigan retaining young, educated residents despite statewide trend

Capital News Service

LANSING –While many of Michigan’s counties are experiencing an exodus of the young and educated, the Greater Grand Rapids region is bucking the trend.

According to 2013 census data, Michigan lost 3.5 per cent of its population of people aged 22 to 34 with bachelor’s degrees to other states.

This follows net migration losses of the young and educated of 2.2 percent in 2012 and 2 percent in 2011. In 2010 the state lost 4.4 percent of this group to outmigration.
Continue reading

Less state money for mandates makes counties pay


Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan is requiring Kent County to increase public health counseling with no additional state funding.

Ottawa County has just discovered it must begin reimbursing foster parents’ mileage under Department of Human Services requirements.

State funding for Marquette County’s senior services has dropped more than 20 percent since 2007, leaving these expenses for the county to cover.

Michigan counties say issues like these are created by unfunded or underfunded mandates — new services the state requires counties to perform without paying its share of the costs.
Continue reading

Many brick-and-mortar businesses welcome online sales tax

Capital News Service

LANSING — Many businesses across northern Michigan will benefit from a new law that subjects online retailers such as Amazon and Overstock.com to the same 6 percent sales tax that “brick-and-mortar” businesses collect from consumers.

The Main Street Fairness Act will affect any online retailer that has a physical presence in the state of Michigan, or has subsidiaries that have a physical presence in the state. The legislation specifically notes businesses that have warehouses and distribution centers in the state, in what is seen as an attempt to target large online retailers such as Amazon.

When the law goes into effect on Oct. 15, it will make Michigan the 23rd state to enact legislation subjecting online retailers to what is more commonly known as the “Amazon tax.”
Continue reading

Auditors raise concerns about State Surplus inventory tracking

Capital News Service

LANSING – The D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette was looking to unload a Chevy transport van with a wheelchair lift.

A medical transportation company in Flint was looking to pick one up.


Marquette’s D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans sold this surplus 2006 Chevy Express 3500 LS van on MiBid for $10,177. Credit: MiBid

Buyer and seller met Jan. 20 on MiBid, an Internet auction site overseen by Michigan’s State Surplus program. The van, a 2006 Chevy Express 3500 LS with 48,000 miles, sold to On the Move Transportation for $10,177.
Continue reading

Where rubber hits road, new taxes fix them


Capital News Service

LANSING — As lawmakers wrangle over how to fix the state’s crumbling road system, one group is increasingly volunteering to foot the bill: Local taxpayers.

More than a third of counties now have local property tax increases in place to help fund road maintenance.

In 2006, voters in 12 counties had approved local road maintenance levies. That number has now risen to 28 as of this year, when eight passed new increases in the August primary and November general elections.


Source: County Road Association of Michigan.

Although the taxes are expected to bring in millions of dollars in additional road funds each year, local leaders say it will barely make a dent, even if the House passes a bill in December to double the gasoline tax.
Continue reading