News Releases

Schools still have time to offer free meals

Contact: Justin Rumenapp ( at the Center for Civil Justice, (810) 244-8044
or Judy Putnam ( at the Michigan League for Public Policy, (517) 487-5436
Editors, please note infographic is available here:

Deadline looms for schools to boost nutrition

LANSING, Mich. – Schools serving a large number of children from low-income homes have until Aug. 31 to qualify to offer free breakfasts and lunches to all students regardless of family income.

Michigan has 822 schools in high-poverty areas identified for the Community Eligibility Provision where 40 percent or more of the student population qualifies for other assistance, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The option not only reduces hunger and the stigma for students from low-income homes, it decreases paperwork usually needed to access free and reduced-price school meals. (more…)

Report: Giving babies the Right Start

Contact: Jane Zehnder-Merrell ( and Suban Nur Cooley ( at the Michigan League for Public Policy, (517) 487-5436

Right Start report highlights maternal/infant well-being in Michigan’s cities

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s cities have the most work to do in order to give infants a “Right Start” in life, a new report has shown, with maternal and infant well-being in 15 Michigan cities examined having worse outcomes on almost every measure compared with their out-county areas.

“For an infant born into disadvantaged communities, the inequities worsen as they grow – fewer state-supported early prevention and intervention programs are available,” says Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Using eight key measures to identify existing risks to infant and maternal well-being in these 15 Michigan cities, The Right Start in Michigan’s Legacy Cities: Inequity Begins at Birth report has found that roughly one quarter of all newborns in the state were born to mothers living in these 15 cities across the southern half of the state.

The report also found that infants in Michigan’s cities were more than twice as likely to be born to women without a high school diploma or GED, had roughly double the likelihood of being born to a teenager and nearly double the risk of being born to a single parent compared to out-county areas.

In four of the 15 Michigan cities, the majority of infants were born to women of color, and almost all the cities experienced an increase in minority births between 2006 and 2012. Detroit on its own represents 40 percent of all births in the cities measured.

As Michigan works to improve education outcomes and strengthen the state of the economy for future generations, the report suggests addressing the challenge of making sure more infants have the right start to early childhood in these larger cities.

“In order to see positive change, we need to fully implement the strategies outlined in the state’s Infant Mortality Reduction Plan which promotes safe sleep practices for infants, expands home-visits to high-risk women and reduces unintended pregnancies,” adds Zehnder-Merrell. “We also need to work across state departments to address social and economic determinants of health, increase opportunities and support systems for low-income women to complete education or training and be there at the very beginning with early interventions.”


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to economic opportunity for all. 

Statement: Wins for families in budget

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436 (office) or (517) 410-5798 (cell)

Statement: Important wins for families and kids in the state budget
The following statement was released by the Michigan League for Public Policy in reaction to the finalization of the state budget that begins Oct. 1. The statement may be attributed to President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature made important strides for low- and moderate-income families in the state budget finalized today.

“Among the positive steps is full funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan, which has already helped more than 287,000 Michigan adults gain the coverage they need to stay healthy and on the job.

“The budget also expands the Healthy Kids Dental program to Kalamazoo and Macomb counties, and 16,000 new preschool slots will be created for low-income children across the state.

“These expansions would have been jeopardized by the passage of income tax rollbacks that were introduced this session. It’s to the Legislature’s and governor’s credit that rollbacks, which would threaten Michigan’s economic recovery, were not taken up.

“Among the missed opportunities in the budget were continuing the policies that restrict income and food assistance for families struggling to make ends meet.

“The Legislature also failed to expand the school clothing allowance for the state’s poorest children and did not restore funding for prevention programs despite increasing numbers of child abuse and neglect victims.”

For more information see the Budget Briefs page.

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all.


Road fix must protect low-income families

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

Sales tax is Michigan’s most regressive tax; low-income workers must be protected

The following statement was released by the Michigan League for Public Policy in response to potential road funding solutions that include an increase in the sales tax. The statement may be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“It’s clear that Michigan must come up with a solution to repair its broken roads. A funding solution that requires a higher sales tax, however, will be especially difficult for lower-income working families who already pay a greater share of their income in state and local taxes.

“The sales tax is by far Michigan’s most regressive tax, meaning it hits low-income families the hardest. In fact, a Michigan family earning $16,000 or less pays an average 6.7 percent of their income in sales tax. That’s more than seven times the impact on a family earning $331,000 or more, who pays less than 1 percent of their income in sales tax.

“A tax on wholesale fuel will also make it more difficult for workers to afford transportation as the price of fuel rises, but it is a far better option than a sales tax as a dedicated source of revenue. Those workers earning the least in Michigan are paying about $247 million more each year in income taxes as a result of the tax shifts that occurred in 2011, specifically the reduction of the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit from 20 percent to 6 percent of the federal credit. For Michigan’s economic recovery to reach everyone, workers who can least afford additional costs to get to work should be protected.

“Increasing the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit would be a perfect vehicle to offset the additional costs on those who can least afford them. This will help workers stay on the job while making sorely needed repairs to the state’s roads.’’

For more information on the sales tax, see the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s Who Pays? report

For information on the change per county in Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit see the interactive EITC map.

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all.



Statement: Minimum wage increase doesn’t go far enough

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 410-5798

Approval of minimum wage increase is encouraging but $10.10 an hour proposal deserves vote

The Michigan League for Public Policy released the following statement after the House voted Tuesday to increase the minimum wage to $9.25 by 2018. Gov. Snyder signed the legislation this evening. The statement may be attributed to League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“The minimum wage increase to $9.25 an hour is greatly needed but it does not go far enough to lift working families from poverty. The legislation would freeze inflationary increases in times of high unemployment and it falls far short on the tipped wage. We need to remember that if minimum wage had kept up with inflation, the 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 an hour would now be $10.90 an hour.

“With enough signatures collected to put this on the fall ballot, voters deserve a chance to have their say on an increase to $10.10 an hour, with a very gradual increase in the tipped wage. The tipped wage increase is critical to working moms in the food industry. Employees who work hard in tough jobs should be able to meet their basic needs, and a raise to $10.10 an hour will go a long way to accomplish that.”


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It convenes the Prosperity Coalition,

Statement: Minimum wage moving in the right direction — up

 Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

Statement: Senate moves minimum wage in the right direction – up

The following statement was issued by the Michigan League for Public Policy in reaction to the Senate passage today of a revised minimum wage bill that increases the minimum wage from $7.40 to $9.20 by 2017 and increases the tipped wage from $2.65 an hour to $3.65. Both will have future inflationary increases. The statement may be attributed to League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“The Senate-passed increase in the minimum wage is moving in the right direction – up. It’s a far better bill than the original but it does not go far enough.

“The tipped wage in particular remains a concern. Many food service workers, the majority of them women, are unable to support themselves and their families on their earnings. Those who work hard and long hours should be able to meet their basic needs on their wages.’’


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It convenes the Prosperity Coalition,




Statement: Business tax cuts haven’t delivered as promised

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

Falling revenues deliver failing grade on business tax cuts

The Michigan League for Public Policy released the following statement today on the downward revenue projections from the Revenue Estimating Conference. The Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder cut business taxes by 83 percent in 2011, while increasing taxes on seniors and low-income working families. The statement may be attributed to Policy Director Karen Holcomb-Merrill.

“The bottom line is that the business tax cuts and other tax changes have not delivered on their promise to stimulate the economy. Michigan needs strong, safe and livable communities and there must be enough revenue for education, health care, public safety and other services needed to make that happen.

“It’s also clear that an income tax rollback would jeopardize the efforts to move past the devastating effects of the Great Recession. Reduced revenues are already threatening Gov. Rick Snyder’s priorities for the Fiscal Year 2015 budget including much-needed increases in K-12 and higher education, expansion of preschool for 4-year-olds, dental care for low-income children and improvements to the state’s mental health system so that those with mental illness or developmental disabilities will be treated in settings other than prison.

“Reducing the income tax would put additional pressure on limited state funds and tie lawmaker’s hands to respond to future recessions.”


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It convenes the Prosperity Coalition,





Road fix: General Fund well could run dry

Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436. (After 5 p.m. 517.410.5798)

General Fund for roads: Going to the well too many times will leave it dry

The Michigan League for Public Policy released the following statement in reaction to the plan under consideration today in the House to earmark $369 million in General Funds for road improvements. The statement may be attributed to Policy Director Karen Holcomb-Merrill.

“This plan will strain resources available for other uses such as health care, higher education, public safety, preschool and other vital human services.

“Targeting one-sixth of the use tax – paid by consumers for such items as online clothing sales, motel and hotel stays and catalog purchases — for one specific purpose will mean that fewer dollars are available for other needs. The governor’s budget proposes an expansion of preschool for 4-year-olds and has offered an increase to the state public universities, which have been severely cut over the past decade. The House plan threatens those and other needed investments.

“Also, the plan would tie the hands of future policymakers who would have less flexibility to respond to needs of citizens that grow during a recession. The General Fund is already targeted to be tapped under a plan to restore local government funding if voters agree to end the Personal Property Tax.

“It’s clear that the roads must be fixed yet the long downturn in Michigan has crumbled more than the roads. There are other sources of revenue to use without pitting our roads against other needs. For example, Michigan has not increased its fuel taxes in many years. It’s time to reinvest in our state in the things we need – safe communities, strong families, postsecondary education and job training.’’


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It convenes the Prosperity Coalition,

My Brother’s Keeper initiative highlighted

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 410-5798

Forum underscores need to reduce racial inequities

NOVI, Mich. — A White House official told a gathering Monday that Detroit is part of a listening tour to help develop President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper, an effort aimed at turning around the grim statistics that mark the lives of young African American males.

Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson called upon nonprofits, government and businesses to work toward creating more opportunity for young men of color. He said a report will be given to the president May 28.

“What lies at the core of this initiative is the fundamental American principle that if you work hard and you play by the rules you should have the opportunity to succeed,” Johnson said.

A person’s ability to get ahead “should be determined by that hard work and your ambition and not by the circumstances of your birth,” he said.

Johnson appeared at the Opportunity & Equity Convening in Novi sponsored by the Prosperity Coalition and the Michigan League for Public Policy. It was part of daylong effort focusing on strategies to reduce racial inequities.

Keynote speaker Pedro Noguera, a national leader on urban education reform and a New York University professor of education, said racial inequities are a problem for all of us.

“This is not a black male problem. It’s an American problem,” he said.

Noguera called upon parents, schools and communities to offer kids what they need to learn, rather than make kids learn the way schools are designed to teach them.

He cited disciplinary rules that suspend children for skipping school as a symptom of practices that deny kids the education they need.

“We need to be sure we’re doing what makes sense,” Noguera said, adding that the underlying problems of the child must be addressed. The solution is “more education, not less.”

A panel earlier in the day outlined some of the problems facing Michigan:

  • Michigan’s education scores trail most states and that of many developing nations.
  • African American kids in Michigan are the least likely to live in higher-income neighborhoods than in any state in the country.
  • Michigan scored similar to Mississippi on an opportunity index for African American kids on a recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report.

Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs said the gathering underscores the need for action.

“We’ve got to make some changes fast if we’re going to really compete with other states and make ourselves successful,” she said.

Reversing Michigan’s deep higher ed cuts

Contact: Judy Putnam or Karen Holcomb-Merrill at (517) 487-5436

Michigan cuts to higher education among worst in country
Shortchanging universities reduces access to higher education, hurts economy

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan has cut funding to public universities and colleges deeper than 37 other states since the start of the Great Recession, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  As a result, tuition has risen dramatically, making it harder for many to go to college and for the state to attract businesses that rely on a well-educated workforce.

While per-student funding increased modestly, (4.8 percent), over the past year, Michigan cut funding for higher education overall by 28 percent since 2008, according to the report. That’s a decrease of $1,631 per student, when adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the average tuition at a public, four-year college in Michigan shot up by 21.5 percent or $2,050 — the 16th largest tuition increase in the country.

“Michigan needs more highly educated workers to draw employers who pay competitive wages. Their workers will spend those wages in the community, boosting the economy of the entire area,’’ said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, policy director at the Michigan League for Public Policy, which helped release the report. “Smart investments in public colleges and universities will help Michigan’s economy. That’s what our state needs.’’

When the recession hit in 2008 and tax revenue dropped, Michigan, like most states, relied heavily on spending cuts. Michigan is now among just six states asking students and families to shoulder higher education costs (vs. state support) by a ratio of at least 2-to-1, the report found.

In 2013-14, Michigan increased state funding by $190 per full-time student. While that’s a positive step, the report finds that 32 other states increased their per-student spending more.

Nationwide, states are spending 23 percent less than they did in 2008 on higher education, and tuition is up 28 percent. As a result, public colleges and universities nationwide cut faculty positions, eliminated course offerings, closed campuses, shut down computer labs, and reduced library services.

In Michigan, tuition is now the sixth-highest in the country and needs-based financial aid has suffered, particularly for students over 30 years old. Due to the elimination of several grant programs in 2009, no existing grant programs serve this purpose.

To reverse these trends, Michigan needs to make higher education a priority.  A large and growing share of jobs will require college-educated workers, and the only way to make sure Michigan students are prepared is to keep higher education affordable. The state is moving in the right direction in requiring universities to limit annual tuition increases to 3.2 percent in order to receive all or part of their funding increases.

In order to make sure Michigan has enough money to fund higher education adequately, lawmakers must reject income tax rollbacks that have been introduced this session. They should also tread lightly in using General Fund dollars to repair Michigan’s battered roads as other sources of revenue (fuel taxes) are available.

“More jobs in the future will require college-educated workers,” said Michael Mitchell, policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the report. “For the sake of its economy and future workforce, Michigan should start reinvesting in its colleges and universities now.”


 The Center’s full report can be found at:


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