[Photo of Michael D. LaFaive]

Michael D. LaFaive

Senior Director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative

Michael LaFaive is the senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, where he has worked since 1995.

He is the author or co-author of hundreds of essays, commentaries and blog posts and 12 studies on fiscal policy topics as varied as local and state privatization efforts, corporate welfare, school finance, state budgeting and cigarette taxes.

Among his studies is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s largest, a nearly 200-page state budget analysis that recommended more than 200 ideas for trimming some $2 billion from the state budget without cutting Medicaid or School Aid funding. Many ideas first presented by LaFaive in 2003 have been adopted or adapted by lawmakers in Lansing.

He is also the originator of the Center’s annual school privatization survey, which routinely garners a 100 percent response rates from districts. There is no database of competitive contracting like it in the United States. In addition to this product, LaFaive authored in 2001 a 26-page, full-color edition of Michigan Privatization Report specifically dedicated to fixing Detroit. The ideas in that publication are more relevant today than when it was published.

LaFaive is perhaps best known, however, for his cutting-edge, scholarly work examining state “economic development” programs. His studies and frequent commentaries on this topic have garnered him a national, if not international reputation as a respected government development critic and were probably influential in the decision to kill the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, the state’s high-profile corporate welfare program. 

LaFaive has been interviewed more than 1,300 times by the media in the last ten years. He is typically interviewed more than 125 times a year by members of the press seeking comment on fiscal issues and remains a popular public speaker.

He has undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics from Central Michigan University.

LaFaive is married and resides in Midland, MI.

Bonfire of the Bureaucratic Vanities

MEDC should publicize its failures, too … more

Think Big: Don’t Expand Transit, Uberize It!

MEDC Is a Moth to a Failure Flame

Suniva bankruptcy lights up program shortcomings … more

Income Tax Cut Could Bring 15,000 New Jobs to Michigan

Updated Research Highlights Impact of Cigarette Tax Evasion

New York still an empire of smuggled smokes as Nevada leaps towards the top … more

Strong Link Between Cigarette Tax and Illegal Smuggling Rates

The negative and unintended consequences of excise taxes … more

State Corporate Welfare Winner Released from Prison

New Pure Michigan Return-on-Investment Figure Won’t Include All Costs

Previous estimation excluded 50 percent-plus of program costs … more

Pure Fiction: State Tourism Cost-Benefit Analysis Ignores Costs

The full cost of the Pure Michigan advertising campaign is ignored … more

Want Money For Roads? Take It from This Failing Program

Michigan Business Development Program funding should end … more

Governor’s 6-Year-Old Corporate Handout Program Should Be Shuttered

State Corporate Welfare Agency Picks Winners That Turn Out To Be Losers

State’s MBDP Job Creation Claims an Inconvenient Fiction

Just because government says its effective doesn’t mean it is … more

Study: Michigan Business Development Program of Questionable Merit

Research shows decline in jobs in counties where subsidized projects are located … more

An Assessment of the Michigan Business Development Program

Mackinac Center Tallies Proposed Expansions and Limitations in Gov. Snyder’s Last State of the State

The address contained five proposed government expansions and no limitations … more

Michigan’s Well-Being Metric Stuck in “Balanced” Position

State Forces Hotels And Inns To Fund Private Marketing Bureaus

Michigan Well-Being Metric Stuck in 'Balanced' Position

Changes in policy could attract more people … more

State Forces Hotels, Inns, To Fund Tourism Bureaus

Michigan Falls in Economic Freedom Index

Lower rank due to reforms in other states … more

Happy Anniversary, Michigan Business Development Program

Wyoming Lights Up a Tax Hike

Op-ed published in Casper Star Tribune … more

Mackinac Center Joins Tax Reform Letter

Senate vote for tax reform possible this week … more

Update: D.C.’s Tax Reform Sausage Making May Still Work Out

Tax Foundation Calculates $2,500 gain per Michigan worker … more

Why did the Governor Flip Flop on Corporate Welfare?

Corporate handouts remain unfair and ineffective … more

Federal Tax Proposal Not Perfect, but Good for Michigan, Nation

Reform plans are on the right track … more

Small Business Owners Say Liquor Commission Gave Bad Advice, Then Punished Them

Alcohol needs less and better control … more

On Economic Development, Michigan Repeats MEGA Mistake

Happy Anniversary Tax Hikers

Ten years have passed since we took your bait … more

This Just In … Longwoods Out

Secretive MEDC consultant replaced … more

Consumers Don’t Need a Law to Limit Competition

Get rid of the ‘half mile’ rule for selling alcohol … more

Jobs Department’s Fake News: $10 Tax return for Every $1 in Subsidies

Program lacks transparency, too … more

Mackinac Center Joins 87 Groups and Activists Calling for Federal Tax Reform

Time for a simple, efficient, sufficient and fair tax code … more

Post Labor Day Weekend Good Time for Tourism Talk

Lots to discuss with unofficial end of summer season … more

Give Foxconn Nothing

Lansing politicians should not make tools out of taxpayers … more

Lansing Politicians Betray Their Stated Ideals

Watch what they do, not what they say … more

Cigarette tax debate should include lawlessness

On Cigarette Tax Evasion, I Told You So

Raising cigarette taxes has consequences and not always good ones … more

‘But For’ Can’t Be Proved: Corporate Welfare is a Waste

New MEGA not costless, despite assurances … more

New Corporate Welfare Proposal is Unfair

'Good Jobs for Michigan' a repeat of failed MEGA program … more

In Remembrance on Independence Day: William T. Wilson, Ph.D.

Economist once paid steep price for intellectual honesty … more

Return of the Mega Subsidy

Corporate welfare still demonstrably ineffective … more

Lawmakers May Further Subsidize Millionaires and Billionaires with New Program

The Model Facade: Selling Jobs to the Public, Press and Policymakers

History shows models are used to obscure costly, ineffective programs … more

MEGA 2 Hearing Demonstrates Desperation

New corporate welfare proposal gets hard sell in tax committee … more

Special Deals for Special Corporations

A Plea for Fairness, Transparency and Intellectual Honesty

Testimony prepared for the Michigan Travel Commission … more

Do Millionaires Need More Subsidies?

MEGA 2.0 bound for failure … more

Why Government Fails at Economic Development

Politicians and bureaucrats repeatedly fail at picking the winners … more

State Tourism Subsidies Unnecessary, Ineffective and Unfair

Incentive Programs Fail: Evidence is All Too Clear

Center Scholar Speaks to Tax Group in Florida … more

Mackinac Center Praises Lawmakers Trying To Hold Pure Michigan Program Accountable

One Democratic lawmaker tried to defund multi-million dollar program; others calling for investigation into unsubstantiated ROI claims … more

Evidence? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Evidence, Imply Tourism Officials

Tourism officials make claims they can’t support … more

Back to the MEGA Future: Good Jobs for Michigan Reinvents Failed MEGA Program

Proposed law shares remarkable similarities with old, failed law … more

Dear House Tax Committee: Pure Michigan Return on Investment Not Validated

State Rep. Jim Tedder asks the right question … more

What’s Old is New Again: Another Subsidy Program Being Considered by Legislature

Good for politicians and well-connected businesses, bad for Michigan … more

Secretive Bidder Wins Pure Michigan Contract Over Transparent One

Auditor General, not MEDC, should hire reviews of corporate welfare programs … more

An Empire of Smuggled Smokes

New York's cigarette taxes have sparked a huge black market and should be rolled back … more

Governor's Tourism Conference Must Address Pure Michigan Shortfalls

Mackinac Center analyst offers counterpoint to state’s promotion campaign … more

The Secrecy of 'Pure Michigan'

One State May Do Away With Taxpayer-Funded Tourism Promotion

Why ending Florida’s “Pure Michigan” counterpart would benefit residents and visitors … more

Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling

An update through 2015 … more

Studies of Government-funded Tourism Promotion Withstand Criticism

Publicly-funded marketing for tourism is a waste of money … more

Updated Research Affirms Link between Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling

Interactive map shows taxes and smuggling by state … more

People First or Well Connected Developers?

We should provide tax relief for all instead of favors to a select few … more

Mackinac Center Analyst: Senate Bills 111-115 Are Corporate Cronyism

LaFaive available to comment on pending legislation … more

The Cost of High Cigarette Taxes

Research reveals unintended consequences of tax … more

Mackinac Center Expert Available for Comment on FY 2018 Budget Release

Fiscal policy analyst to be in Lansing Wednesday for Snyder’s presentation … more

Legislators Who Promote Transparency Should Start by Disclosing Corporate Welfare Deals

MEDC secrecy patronizes lawmakers and public … more

Michigan Wins When Immigrants Face a Fair and Predictable System

Due process is an important part of an immigration system … more

Detroit’s Soccer Stadium Should Stand on its Own

Stadiums are a bad investment for taxpayers … more

Indiana Could See Cigarette Smuggling Leap with Excise Tax Increase

Michigan may benefit from Hoosier hike … more

Government Growth Proposed in Gov. Snyder's 2017 State of the State

Address included 12 proposed government expansions, one limitation … more

Happy 50th Birthday Personal Income Tax

Now go away … more

Some Budget Ideas for 2017

Michigan’s Net Out-Migration Much Reduced But Still Negative

Michigan Stagnates on Economic Freedom Index

After big recent gains, this state stuck in neutral … more

Tourism Promotion Study Criticism Absurd, Ironic

MEDC criticism falls flat; still hiding behind secretive study … more

High Taxes on Cigarettes Increase Smuggling

New study looks at national rates … more

High Cigarette Taxes Lead to More Smuggling

Study provides new estimates of smuggling rates for each state … more

Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling: A 2016 Update

Click here to view the PDF of the full study.
Introduction
Since 2008 the Mackinac Center for Public Policy — and more recently in conjunction with the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation — has worked to estimate the degree to which cigarettes are smuggled into and out of American states. Our research, and that of other scholars too, suggests that smuggling is a rampant problem, particularly in states with high cigarette excise taxes.
Unintended and unforeseen consequences are a frequent problem in public policy. Few politicians realize when they vote for higher excise taxes that doing so may dramatically increase cigarette-related crime, such as smuggling. These crimes not only deprive local and state governments of tax revenues, they also tend to descend into violence, which produces all sorts of unnecessary damage. Policymakers should take these realities into consideration when contemplating how much to tax cigarettes.
This report analyzes the relationship between cigarette tax rates and cigarette smuggling rates. It relies on the same statistical model used in our previous studies, but uses the latest available data from 2014. New York State once again claims the highest smuggling rate in the nation. In fact, according to our analysis, New Yorkers consume more smuggled cigarettes than they do legally taxed ones. New York state has the highest excise tax rate on cigarettes in the country at $4.35 per pack and New York City adds another $1.50 tax. Arizona, Washington state, New Mexico and Minnesota round out the top five states for percentage of in-bound smuggling. Michigan ranks 12th, down two positions. … more

Michigan House Rejects Cronyism Bills

‘TIF on steroids’ legislation dead for now … more

Bad Santa: Trump Risks Cronyist Blowout with Carrier Incentives

Draining the swamp by creating new ones … more

Mackinac Scholars Challenge Tourism Officials to Debate

Letter sent to key proponents of Pure Michigan campaign … more

Tourism Officials Invited To Debate Efficacy of Pure Michigan

Mackinac Center researchers challenge state to defend claim that program is worth its cost … more

Pistons Move to Downtown Comes With Big Taxpayer Price Tag

Mackinac Center experts comment on the deal in state media … more

Study: New Sports Facilities Do Not Increase New Business Openings

Research discredits idea for ‘catalyst’ or ‘transformational’ developments … more

After Election Season, Economic Liberty Please

Lesson from a state-by-state study: Liberty promotes prosperity … more

State Not Transparent with Effectiveness of Multi-Million-Dollar Program

New Pure Michigan study questions advertising expenditure … more

Recommended Reading: A New Look at “The Bet”

Human well-being has increased dramatically over the last few decades … more

Tax Hike Vote in Kent County Expensive, Unnecessary

Unfair to force taxpayers to subsidize the recreation of others … more

The State Claims ‘Pure Michigan’ is Worth Tens of Millions. It Isn’t.

Other research does not validate MEDC’s secretive, no-bid contractor … more

Pure Michigan’s ‘Budget Justification’

Why an independent review is necessary … more

Study: Pure Michigan a Poor Investment

New study raises questions about Pure Michigan’s effectiveness … more

An Analysis of State-Funded Tourism Promotion

Click here to view the PDF of the full study. … more

Tilt from Tax Cutting to Corporate Welfare Renews Failed Approach to Economic Growth

Lawmakers face a number of corporate welfare proposals … more

Potential Corporate Welfare Binge Risks Second Michigan ‘Lost Decade’

Michigan and Ontario Governments Agree to Promote Crony Capitalism Together