government spending

State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State government has been distracted by the water contamination crisis it created in Flint, by the financial problems in Detroit schools, and the day-to-day issues that are just a natural part of running a huge operation in a large state. One issue that’s been set aside often – the proverbial “kicking the can down the road” – is underfunded pension plans and health care costs for retirees.

At the state level, Governor Snyder implemented a plan early in his first term to chip away at the problem. At the local level, most cities have been struggling with cutting services and just paying the bills. The idea of trying to catch up on putting more money into pension plans or setting aside money for growing retiree health care costs don’t seem to be as pressing. The result: A looming financial disaster for many cities and counties.

Alan Cleaver / Flickr

A new report from the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan gives the state a “B+” when it comes to keeping citizens informed of government spending habits.

The study said Michigan is doing especially well when it comes to making that information available online.


Two Michigan landmarks have been targeted by a Republican senator as prime examples of wasteful federal spending.

Each year, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) issues a report on what he feels are the most egregious examples of government waste.

This report points to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior and Keweenaw National Historical Park in the UP as "wasteful" and not worthy of preservation.

Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press Washington reporter joined us today to tell us what’s behind Sen. Coburn’s reasoning.

Listen to the full interview above.

There’s a new report on lobbyists’ spending in Lansing. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network has looked at the numbers, and the big change: free lunches for legislators are up 48% from 2012.

Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network joined us today to talk about what he’s found.

Listen to the full interview above.


A federal government shutdown could have a big effect in Michigan, especially for many of the state’s most vulnerable.

Many programs run by Michigan’s state government are paid for with money from the federal government.

If the White House and Congressional Republicans can’t reach a budget deal by the end of this month, the flow of federal money to Michigan will slow to a trickle.

“There are hundreds of millions of dollars that flow into the state on a monthly basis,” says John Nixon, Michigan’s state budget director.


Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has hit the pause button on the project to build a new Wayne County jail in downtown Detroit.

The reason?

The still-unfinished 2,000-bed jail could cost up to $91 million over its $220 million budget. So the county is now considering cutting its considerable losses and leasing a former state prison on Mound Road on Detroit's East Side.

Crain's Detroit Business writer Bill Shea got us thinking about this sorry episode in government spending, and the word "boondoggle" came to mind.

His story in Crain's is headlined "Many dollars, little sense: Projects that seemed like good ideas at the time," and he joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

On today's show: Boondoggles.

We took a look back at some of Michigan's sorriest episodes in government spending.

And, we spoke with the members of the duo Midnight Faces, a Grand Rapids band taking a new approach to music from the '80's.

And, Dr. Amanda Lotz joined us in the studio to discuss the future of television now that services such as Netflix have become increasingly popular.

Also, a campaign has started to bring the summer 2014 X-Games to Detroit. We spoke with the guys responsible for starting the campaign about why they think Detroit should be chosen to host the event.

First on the show, with school out for the summer, state officials are already looking for ways to get more students to show up for classes in the fall. The state Department of Human Services wants to expand pilot programs that put more social workers in schools with high truancy rates.

At the same time, DHS has a new statewide policy that threatens to take away welfare benefits from families with kids who persistently miss school.

But, critics say that still means too few families are getting the support they need to avoid losing their cash assistance.

Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher gave us the full report.

Kent County Board of Commissioners

Thursday morning Kent County Commissioners are expected to adopt a budget for next year that eliminates 56 full time positions. The cuts are part of an overall plan to keep county spending in line as revenue from property taxes decline.

2010 is the first year taxable value has gone down in Kent County. That’s the value property taxes are based on. Money collected from property taxes make up a little more than half of the county's general fund.