Evaluation of Michigan state website

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Michigan.gov is the website for the state of Michigan.

Website evaluation

Usability P
Elected Officials
Administrative Officials
Lobbying P
Public records P
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

This website was reviewed on January 18, 2012.

The good

  • The state has a transparency site.[1]
  • Vendor payments are posted.[2]
  • The state telephone directory is posted.[3]
  • Elected officials are listed with contact information.[4]
  • Audits are posted.[5]
  • Budgets are posted.[6]
  • Tax information is available.[7]
  • Ethics information is posted.[8]
  • Lobbyist reports and lists are posted.[9]
  • Bid opportunities are posted.[10]
  • Some bid results are posted.[11]

The bad

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website an "B" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 83 out of 100.[13]

The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.

Item Possible points Notes
Checkbook-level website 30 Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.
Search by vendor 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.
Search by keyword of activity 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.
Search by agency or departments 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.
Contract or summary information 10 A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.
Historical expenditures 5 Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.
Grants and economic development incentives information 10 Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.
Downloadable 3 Information can be downloaded for data analysis.
Tax expenditure reports 10 The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.
Off-budget agencies 2 Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.
City and county budgets 2 Financial information for some local governments is accessible.
ARRA Funding 2 A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Feedback 2 Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.

There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities' lobbying activity.

Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.

State Integrity Investigation

The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.[14]

Michigan received an overall grade of F, or 58%. It ranked 43 out of the 50 states.[15]

Category Grade
Public Access to Information D
Political Financing F
Executive Accountability F
Legislative Accountability F
Judicial Accountability F
State Budget Processes B-
State Civil Service Management F
Procurement B-
Internal Auditing A
Lobbying Disclosure F
State Pension Fund Management F
Ethics Enforcement Agencies F
State Insurance Commissions F
Redistricting F

Transparency portal

The state publishes over 800 reports, 3 a day from each agency, a year. However, the state has not created a transparency portal, citing costs of up to $150 million to launch the site.[16] The costs are much greater than other states due to the state's use of 1980's accounting software that is not web compatible.

MI Dashboard

Gov. Rick Snyder created a MiDashboard to track government performance. Citizens are able to find out: "economic strength, health and education, value for money, government, quality of life and public safety."[17]

Transparency Legislation


Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Recovery State Tracks federal stimulus funds 2011 http://www.michigan.gov/recovery
Secretary of State State Lobbying and campaign finance 2011 http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1633_8723_8751---,00.html
Michigan Transparency Mackinac Center for Public Policy Expenditures 2011 http://www.showmichiganthemoney.org/9398
Michigan School Databases Mackinac Center for Public Policy School contracts, performance, spending, insurance, checkbook registers 2012 http://www.mackinac.org/10361
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=MI


State and Local Employees

Michigan's state budget director, John Nixon, receives a salary of $250,000 a year -- the highest salary of those in the cabinet, according to salary information released by the governor's office.[18]

According to 2010 Census data, the state of Michigan and local governments in the state employed a total of 590,868 people.[19] Of those employees, 395,115 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $1,896,386,227 per month and 195,753 were part-time employees paid $232,116,286 per month.[19] Over 60% of those employees, or 366,011 employees, were in education or higher education.[19] Michigan state workers today receive approximately 47% more in total compensation than their private-sector counterparts.[20] The average state worker, who makes about $54,000 a year.[21]

Former state budget director, Bob Emerson, earned just over $135,200.[22]

Michigan State Police
Michigan state police troopers approved a contract that is effective until December 2011. Governor Jennifer Granholm said "tough economic times and financial pressures on the state budget" required changes in employee benefits. Per the agreement, state troopers receive no wage increase in the first year of the contract, a 1% increase in the second year, and 2% increase in the third year. Healthcare plan changes are expected to offset the wage increases.[23]

Bus drivers
One bus driver in Lansing earned $140,900 in 2009, after clocking in 2,198 hours of overtime - or about 42 extra hours per week.[24] Another CATA bus driver earned $114,691 in 2009, and 25 other drivers reported incomes over $80,000.[24]

Employee Benefits

The Mackinac Center estimated that the annual cost of public sector benefits for Michigan state employees in 2011 is $5.7 billion total, with about $2.5 billion of those pension, health care and other fringe benefit costs found in public schools; $1.7 billion in local government; $844 million in colleges and universities; and $708 million in state government.[25]


Employees are eligible for insurance options if the employee is in any category of the classified State service with an appointment of at least 720 hours duration, except if the employee has a non-career appointment.[26]

Health Employees may choose between an HMO plan and a PPO plan.[27] Another option is catastrophic coverage.[28] The state contributes a minimum of $280 and a maximum of $648.26 on a biweekly basis for employee health insurance.[29]

Dental The State of Michigan offers various Dental Insurance Plans. As an eligible employee, you can select the State Dental Plan for the which the state pays for 95% of the premium, a Preventive Plan which the state pays for in full and gives employees a $100 lump-sum cash payment, or a Dental Maintenance Organization for which the state pays in full.[30][31]

Vision The state's vision insurance plan is available to employees and the state covers the entire cost of the premium.[32]

Life Employees can select the State Life Insurance Plan, for which the state will cover the full premium cost, or the Reduced Benefit Life Insurance Plan, for which the state will cover the full premium cost and give the employee a biweekly cash refund.[33] The state life insurance plan is a traditional group life insurance plan that pays the employee's designated beneficiary(ies) a non-taxable death benefit equal to 200% the employee's basic annual salary.[33] The reduced benefit plan pays the designated beneficiary(ies) a non-taxable death benefit equal to 100% of the employee's basic annual salary rounded up to the next $1,000 but no more than $50,000.[33] Employees may also add employee-paid, options supplemental insurance.[34]

Long Term Disability Employees also have long term disability insurance.[35]

Holidays State employees receive 12-13 paid holidays per year, including:[36]

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • President's Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Election Day (even years)
  • Veteran's Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Day after Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • New Years Eve

Vacation Full time employees receive between 15 and 35 vacation leave days per year.[37]

Sick Employees also receive 13 sick days per year.[37]

Other Employees receive 8 hours of leave annually to participate in certain school functions or community activities.[37]

Other Benefits

  • Flexible Spending Account[38]


Michigan shifted its state public employees (not teachers) to a defined contribution plan in 1997 which encompassed approximately half of the state workforce in 2009, with the rest in defined benefit plans. In the defined contribution plan, state employees receive a minimum 4% state contribution toward their retirement fund. If an employee elects to contribute more, the state will match that percentage (up to 3%).[37] Employees may invest income in a tax-deferred retirement investment program. The state offers two optional deferred compensation plans, the 457 and 401(k). Employees decide the amount deducted from their paycheck.[37]

The state wants workers to pay 3% of their monthly salary toward a trust that would fund retiree health-care benefits, whereas they had previously paid nothing.[39] The employee contributions would generate $300 million of the more than $920 million in health-care costs projected for FY2012.[39] Three unions filed suit against the state, claiming that the policy is an unlawful violation of the terms of their employment.[39] The new contributions have been collected by the teachers' retirement fund since July 1, 2010, but are being held pending a court decision and should the state lose the lawsuit, contributions would likely be returned to employees.[39]

A recent study by economists Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business concluded that the Michigan pension fund will run out of money in 2023.[40]

Early Retirement Plan for FY2012 Budget

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's 2010 state budget proposal included a plan to entice state workers to retire early.[41] The state work retirement proposal could prove to be one of the toughest proposals to sell, particularly in the Democratic-run House.[41] Under the plan, employees on the job would have to contribute more, starting at an increase of 1% in the plan's first year, rising to 3% in five years.[41] For those eligible to retire, the plan sweetens pension benefits and for employees not yet eligible to retire but who meet certain age or years-of-service requirements also could get better pension benefits. Officials estimate that roughly 3,500 to more than 6,000 of the 12,000 eligible might retire if offered the deal.[41]

If the bill is not passed, the state is going to have to cut funding for police and other emergency services.[42]

Michigan Pension Plans

Plan Current Value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities Total state employees Avg. pension
Public School Employees Retirement System $56.7 billion 78.9 percent $11.99 billion 268,208 active members $44,703
State Employees Retirement System $14.2 billion 78 percent $3.1 billion 54,455 active members $50,462
State Police Retirement System $1.16 billion 80.7 percent $256 million 1,655 active members $41,607
Judges Retirement System (includes two funds) $269.2 million 113 percent $7.4 million 541 active members $62.350

Public School Employee Retirement System

The Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System collects and compiles employee wage, contribution, and service information from 550 K-12 districts, 59 public school academies, 7 universities, 28 community colleges, 57 intermediate school districts, and 11 libraries.

State Employees Retirement System

The system has two plans, the Defined Benefit plan and the 401(k) Defined Contribution plan. State employees hired on or after March 31, 1997, are enrolled in the 401(k) Defined Contribution plan. The system covers civil service employees as well as appointed officials in the executive branch and employees of the legislature and judiciary.

State Police Retirement System

The Michigan State Police Retirement System is a defined benefit plan.The plan is funded by contributions from the Michigan State Police and by investment earnings on these contributions. Full retirement is achieved after 25 years of service.

Judges Retirement System

ORS administers two different retirement plans for judicial employees - the Defined Benefit plan and the 401(k) Defined Contribution plan. Employees hired prior to March 31, 1997 pay into the Defined Benefit Plan and those after pay into the Defined Contribution Plan. Members of the Defined Contribution Plan receive a 4 percent gross pay contribution by the state. In addition, participants can contribute their own money to the plan. The first 3 percent participant contribution is matched by the state with another 3 percent.

Funding Levels

The state's pension liabilities can be calculated in a variety of ways, which yield different numbers. Below are the numbers as calculated by to the Pew Center on the States[43], the American Enterprise Institute[44] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[45]

In Thousands
PEW (2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
$11,514,600 $72,187,197 $63,600,000

Public Records

The Michigan Freedom of Information Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Michigan. The first version of the law was enacted by the Michigan State Legislature in 1977. The provisions of the law are included in MCL (Michigan Compiled Laws) Sections 15.231 -15.246.

The Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA) requires that governmental meetings be conducted in public, with certain exceptions. It governs the procedures by which the public must be notified of meetings. It is enacted in MCL 15.261, et seq.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Michigan FOIA procedures.

External links


  1. Michigan.gov, "Mi Transparency," accessed January 18, 2012
  2. Michigan.gov, "Vendor Payments," accessed January 18, 2012
  3. Michigan.gov, "Telephone Directory," accessed January 18, 2012
  4. Michigan.gov, "Legislative Branch," accessed January 18, 2012
  5. Michigan.gov, "Financial Reports," accessed January 18, 2012
  6. Michigan.gov, "Budget," accessed January 18, 2012
  7. Michigan.gov, "Taxes," accessed January 18, 2012
  8. Michigan.gov, "Ethics Commission," accessed January 18, 2012
  9. Michigan.gov, "Lobbying," accessed January 18, 2012
  10. Michigan.gov, "Bid Opportunities," accessed January 18, 2012
  11. Michigan.gov, "Buy Michigan First," accessed January 18, 2012
  12. Michigan.gov, "FOIA Search," accessed January 18, 2012
  13. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  14. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  15. Michigan Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  16. Detroit News, Michigan budget reports scrutinized, Dec. 27, 2010
  17. Niles Star, Editorial: ‘MiDashboard’ holds lawmakers accountable, Feb. 22, 2011
  18. The Detroit Free Press "State budget chief gets top salary at $250K" Jan. 15, 2011
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 2010 Michigan Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  20. Reason "What's Round on The Ends and High in The Middle? Ohio's Public Sector Salaries, That's What" July 7, 2010
  21. The Detroit News "Budget proposal pits local governments against state employees" Sept. 12, 2010
  22. The Deseret News "Utah budget director to be 'super executive' in Michigan" Dec. 1, 2010
  23. The Detroit Free Press "3-year deal approved by Michigan State Police" July 30, 2010
  24. 24.0 24.1 Michigan Capitol Confidential, Lansing's $140,000 Bus Driver, Nov. 5, 2010
  25. The Detroit News "Public workers in Snyder's sights" Jan. 3, 2011
  26. Eligibility
  27. Benefit booklets
  28. Health Info
  29. Rates
  30. Dental
  31. Dental Details
  32. Vision Insurance Plan
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Life Insurance Plans
  34. Supplemental Insurance
  35. Long Term Disability Insurance
  36. State Holidays
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 37.4 Civil Service Commission
  38. Flexible Spending Account
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 The Wall Street Journal "States Press Workers on Healthcare" August 27, 2010
  40. New Mexico, Study: NM state pension plan will run out of money in 13 years, Sept. 9, 2010
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 Businessweek "Retirement package part of Michigan budget plan" Sept. 8, 2010
  42. Lansing State Journal, State employee retirement bill for Michigan budget stalls in House, Sept 22, 2010
  43. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States, accessed January 4, 2011
  44. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  45. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)