Where rubber hits road, new taxes fix them

By IAN K. KULLGREN

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.

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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.
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Business owners say minimum wage could push up prices

By MICHAEL KRANSZ

Capital News Service

LANSING — Some Michigan small businesses that pay employees more than the state’s minimum wage say the recent increase could drive costs up for their customers.

It rose from $7.40 to $8.15 on Sept. 1 in the first of four phases leading to $9.20 in 2018 for workers who don’t get tips.

Mike Valle, owner of Valle’s Village Market in Marquette, said the increase could translate into a price-hike domino effect, even though he is already paying employees more.
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Authors “Canvas Detroit” for art’s impact on the urban environment

By BECKY McKENDRY

Capital News Service

A street mural from Hygienic Dress League. Photo: Flickr/CC

A street mural from Hygienic Dress League. Photo: Flickr/CC

LANSING — In “Canvas Detroit,” a new book from Wayne State University Press, Nichole Christian and Julie Pincus profile the Motor City’s brightest and most diverse up-and-coming street artists.

From murals on boulevards to grass sculptures, their work can actively improve the urban environment and shine a light on previously ignored and abandoned cityscapes, the authors say.

Detroit is a city that needs “problem solving,” Christian says, and art won’t solve it all. But the city is fostering a wickedly creative atmosphere that is ripe for revitalization.

In a recent interview, Christian explained the importance of street art and how it can revitalize a city.

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Road restrictions hamper farmers this spring

By NICK STANEK

Capital News Service

LANSING — The farming industry feels the lingering effects of the polar vortex in some parts of the state as cold temperatures continue into spring.

County governments implement seasonal weight restrictions on roads every year to reduce the impact heavy trucks can have on roads.

“By law, road agencies can enact weight restrictions on roads that are not designated as all-season routes when conditions merit,” County Road Association of Michigan says on its website.

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Golf courses face tee time delays

By NICK STANEK

Capital News Service

LANSING — Golf courses in Michigan have reopened after a prolonged winter freeze that caused damage and set revenue behind for the season.

The damage could be costly, said John Pohl, assistant shop manager at the Royal Scot Golf Course in Lansing. The season started three weeks later than usual, which also cost the course money, he said. Royal Scot reopened in early April last year.

“People don’t want to go out golfing when it’s cold out,” he said.

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Economic outlook for state depends on where you are

By ASHLEY WEIGEL

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s economy is on the rise, according to a recent survey.

In many areas of the state more people are reporting they are in excellent or good economic shape. The exceptions are the Upper Peninsula, rural areas and Detroit.

The latest State of the State survey out of Michigan State University indicates that many Michigan residents are doing better financially than they were a year ago. And they expect to be doing better still this time next year.

An average of 54 percent of residents think they are in “excellent” or “good” financial position this year. This percentage has steadily increased after the numbers bottomed out in late 2009 and early 2010, said Charles Ballard, director of the survey and professor of economics at MSU.

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Icy lakes made some towns, businesses winners or losers

By NICK STANEK

Capital News Service

LANSING — The record-breaking ice on Lake Superior is bad news for the steel industry but not for tourism in some parts of the Upper Peninsula.

The Sault Ste. Marie locks opened Tuesday as they do every year on March 25. But this was the first time since 2009 a boat didn’t pass through the very same day.

The lack of boat traffic in 2009 was due to economic reasons. This year it is because of the ice, said Mark Gill, the U.S. Coast Guard director of vessel and trafficking services in Sault Ste. Marie.

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Getting a job after 55 may require ‘Shifting Gears’

By BECKY McKENDRY

Capital News Service

LANSING – If you’re 55 or older and hunting for a job, good luck. Michigan is one of the worst states for your employment prospects.

Governing Magazine recently reported data showing nationwide employment-to-population ratios, a common economic measure of what proportion of a state’s eligible working-age population is employed.

Michigan is the third worst in the nation for older workers, just behind Arkansas and West Virginia, at 32.3 percent of residents 55 and older employed.

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State may encourage industry by easing limits on breweries

By ASHLEY WEIGEL

Capital News Service

LANSING — The explosion of craft beer in Michigan has the Legislature hoping the industry could benefit from relaxed regulation.

Numerous bills related to the beer and wine industries were passed in the House recently, many of them designed to encourage the industry to expand.

The legislation would raise the limit of barrels produced by a microbrewery from 30,000 to 60,000. As of now, a brewer that produces more than 30,000 barrels can no longer be considered a microbrewery. Microbrewers are given some tax breaks and have some flexibility in the rules of the industry, such as the ability to sell growlers, or containers that can be filled to go.

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Dairy dilemma: Cold chills milk production, threatens cow health, increases feed costs

By DARCIE MORAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — The seemingly everlasting winter chill might cost Michigan dairy farmers whose cows are trying to stay warm.

Farmers are treating cows with more than the usual number of pneumonia cases, chapped teats and udders, disturbed calving cycles and injuries from slipping on ice. And some of them might receive a lower paycheck from lackluster milk production thanks to the long, cold winter.

Although cows prefer cooler temperatures, the animals need far more energy to survive during harsh winter weather, said Ron Erskine, Michigan State University professor of veterinary medicine.

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