The "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign was started by the state of Michigan in 2006. It consists of ads that glorify the state of Michigan with the voice of Michigan celebrities, such as Tim Allen, behind scenic views of Michigan. The ads are intended to get people outside of Michigan to visit the state, which would boost the tourist sector of Michigan's economy. When levels of state funding were low, the controversy behind the scenes between political parties and groups throughout the state was underrepresented. The main benefactor from the Campaign is the tourism industry. However, as state funding increased, a dissonance of opinion regarding government funding of the campaign began.. Whether state funds should go toward a program that benefits only a portion of Michigan's economy or not has become somewhat of an issue between the parties. Another issue between the parties has been the source of funding. Both parties tend to agree funding the campaign in times of surplus but when money is tight, there is a lack of uniform agreement about whether the government should fully fund the program. However, the issue is not strongly divided along party lines as some might believe it would be. Instead, the controversy between parties and groups is more complicated than portrayed in the colorful and relaxing ads. Therefore, the main controversy regarding the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign between political parties and groups stems from the source of funding and is not strongly divided along party lines.
The controversy between the parties regarding the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign does not come from the actual program itself but from the question of who should fund it and how well it should be funded. Although there is not always clear and strong party divisions regarding the funding of "Pure Michigan" Ads, through party platforms and the history of voting records, a vague party line can be seen. Both parties support different levels of funding for the campaign, which promises a high return on investment through increased tax revenue from tourism. The disagreement between and within both parties arises from the source of funding for the campaign. One controversial source of money that may fund the "Pure Michigan" campaign is the Michigan Strategic Fund, a fund that usually helps fund business startups in the state. Some Democrats tend to support temporarily borrowing from the startup fund whereas many Republicans believe that the campaign's cost should be covered entirely by Michigan's travel industry. There are exceptions to this and there have been Republicans who support increased spending and government funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign as well as Democrats who do not believe the Campaign should be funded as heavily as it is. These Republicans, such as Representative Wayne Schmidt from Traverse City who believes the program provides "more jobs for Michiganders" support full funding of the program although the district which they represent should be taken into account to fully understand the reason behind their support. For the most part though, there is some party division regarding the funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ad campaign. While both parties support the utilization of the "Pure Michigan" campaign, there has arisen serious debate over the source of funding for the continuation of the campaign.
Republicans tend to favor a decreased role of government resulting in less government spending. These fiscal conservatives believe the cost for the "Pure Michigan" campaign should be covered solely by the travel industry. For many Republicans in Michigan's legislature, the source of funding for the "Pure Michigan" campaign has become very important. However, beliefs of those within the party on the issue differ. The Michigan Republican Party as an organization has refrained from taking an official position on the issue due to its bipartisan nature. However, individual Republican legislators have formed their own beliefs of where the source of funding should stem. Some believe that finding the correct source of funding for the "Pure Michigan" campaign is more important than fully funding the campaign, while others believe the full funding of the campaign is more important than the source of money. Those who believe that finding the correct source of funding is the most important factor have affected past legislation by cutting the campaign from $25 million to $5.4 million, a budget that would allow the funding to come from the correct sources. However, future proposals by some Republican representatives reflect the belief in fully funding the "Pure Michigan" campaign and disregarding the source of the funding. For example, Republican Representative Wayne Schmidt who was mentioned earlier, introduced a bill which would "transfer $20 million from the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund, created in 2005 to ‘strengthen and diversify' Michigan's economic base ...to "Pure Michigan"." However, several Republican members of the legislature feel that the 21st Century Jobs fund should stay true to its purpose and help businesses, not tourism. As a result, although Republicans in government tend to support a decreased amount of funding for the "Pure Michigan" campaign, others feel that full funding of the "Pure Michigan" campaign should be adopted.
Democrats on the other hand, generally agree that the positive impact from the "Pure Michigan" campaign far outweighs the concern over the source of temporary funding. To many Democrats, temporarily borrowing funds from the 21st Century Jobs Fund is a necessary step in successfully funding the "Pure Michigan" campaign. For example, Democratic voters, such as business owner, David LaGrand believes the campaign has "been a money-maker for the state's tourism industry. He cited studies that concluded the ads had a return on investment of ‘at least 2-1 and often, 5-1.'" However, although Democrats typically support full funding of the "Pure Michigan" campaign, there is some internal divisions on the issue. Some Democratic representatives, like Representative Ray Franz, feel that with the economy of Michigan as it is and with the "state budget [having] $1.8 billion in the red...taxpayers can only afford the traditional base funding for the program." Traditional base funding for the program would consist of only $6 million, about 25% of the original amount desired.
The Michigan Democratic Party believes that the "‘Pure Michigan' advertising campaign should be adequately funded." Among Democrats, the general consensus is that the "Pure Michigan" advertising campaign needs "adequate funding" to succeed, which would be millions more than traditional base funding; however, as with any issue, there are some outliers who disagree. There are some Democrats that may agree with government funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign, but like Republicans, believe that the source of funding in particular is important. One democrat in particular, Senator Anderson, voted against House Bill 4160 because he "opposed the recent expenditures as [he] disagreed with funding it from the 21st Century Jobs Fund at a time when that fund should be used to help create jobs." Another way in which Senator Anderson strayed from his party a little bit is that he believed the tourist industry should contribute to the Campaign since it benefits directly. Nevertheless, although Senator Anderson may agree with some Republicans that the source of funding is important, he still believes that tourism is very important to Michigan's economy and that the Campaign should be continued to be funded at least partially by the government, something not all Republicans or Conservative groups agree on.
In addition to differences in opinion between Republicans and Democrats regarding the source of government funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign, there are several groups throughout the state where the differences in their opinion toward the Campaign openly conflict. There are several groups that are against government funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ads and some individuals within the group who believe the Ads are a horrible idea in general. One such group is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Considered a conservative state-level policy think tank, its main goal is to promote a free market and pro-business policies. With this in mind, one might wonder why they would be against a program that claims to boost business in the tourist industry. The reason is clear: they do not believe the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign is effective. In the words of the Director of the Mackinac Center's Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, Michael LaFaive, the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign is "ineffective, expensive, and unfair." Mr. LaFaive felt that "it should be funded those who directly benefit from the program or those who claim to approve of the program...the program should be funded just as the Mackinac Center is funded: through peaceful voluntary association...If [the tourist industry and those who benefit] don't think it worth investing for their own benefit why in heavens name does anyone think it is worthwhile to forcible extract the resources from the unwilling participants?" With this statement it become clear the negative view the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has toward the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign. They are seeking for voluntary cooperation and less government involvement, a conservative ideal. When asked about the claims that the "Pure Michigan" Ads bring in $2 for every $1 spend Michael LaFaive felt that "the claim should be taken with a huge grain of salt" and went on to claim that if the full cost of the program was stated and the study was done accurately, this claim would clearly be incorrect.
Contrary to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's opinion regarding government funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign, there are groups that support this program and believe it should be strengthened with increased funding. One group that supports the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign is the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association. Claiming to represent over 500 hotels, motels, resort, and bed and breakfasts, the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association has a lot to gain from increased tourism. According to the group, "Fifty-nine percent of tourism businesses surveyed this summer...reported an increase in out-of-state guests compared with last year." The group also cites that "Four years of independent research has found that every $1 Michigan invests in out-of-state tourism advertising now generation $2.86 in new sales tax revenue for the state. In addition, every $1 the state invests in tourism advertising generates $40.81 in total spending by tourists from other states." With independent research, the group and several individuals supporting the Ads argues that it is a smart investment for the state of Michigan. The group feels that in the past funding for "Pure Michigan" Campaign was to low and that at least $28 to $30 million is needed to have the program fully funded. With obvious and blatant support for the program, it is no surprise that they fought hard to ensure that the state of Michigan provides permanent funding for "Pure Michigan" Ads, something that conflicts with the ideals of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
To spread their economic ideology regarding the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and their staff have written several articles criticizing the government's increased funding of the program, stating that in their opinion it was an awful decision. Through these articles, they have attempted to create public awareness of the gaps that they are finding in the program which the government is attempting to pass off as flawless. The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association on the other hand has sought support of state Congressman and the newly elected Governor Rick Snyder to demonstrate the first hand success they believe is a direct result of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign. They have "fought for and won $15 million for "Pure Michigan", in spite of the State having a $3 billion budget deficit" and are currently fighting to make the "funding levels of $30 [million] permanent." Although both groups seek the same thing: to make their case clear to both the legislature and public, both groups employ different methods to accomplish their goal.
The conflict between the two groups is easy to point out and the reason behind the conflict becomes evident as both groups attempt to express their sides and present facts and statistics to back up their point. There are likely to be future conflicts between the two groups, as well as the political parties they inform, as they attempt to make their economic perspective a state policy. One may wonder, especially with Governor Rick Snyder's proposal back in January that became enacted into policy back in March, what made the Michigan Lodging and Travel Association more successful than the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Four factors can be looked at in determining the reason behind this apparent success: scale of the organizations, age of the organization, breadth of the political agenda, and formal ties to Public Supporters. When these are studied in further depth, the success of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association becomes explainable. Compared to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy which staffs a total of 529 professionals to assist in pursuing its goals and no official membership, the Michigan Lodging and Travel Association, have dedicated leaders and a membership of over 500 hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments. With such large formal ties to public supporters, state congressman become more interested in the facts and finding the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association presents, knowing there are constituents are behind the group.
The age of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, dating back over 100 years, means a history of contacts and networking, something the Mackinac Center for Public Policy lacks since it was only established in 1987. Lastly, the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association is focused on a specific subject: Tourism. When legislators seek advice towards issues concerning tourism, members from both parties can seek advice from the nonpartisan group. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy on the other hand deals with several issues. Although this makes them able to be sought after in several instances, they are not experts in any one field and are known for representing a conservative opinion. Therefore, the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association has an advantage over the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in ensuring government funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign because they are longstanding group with focused individuals as leaders and have a large membership with a specific purpose.
In addition to likely conflicts between the two groups, there is likely to be future conflicts between congressmen over the future of government funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign. This will likely occur around the time of the annual budget renewal. As Michigan continues to struggle through the economic recession that has taken hold of the entire nation, it can only be assumed that cuts will be made in discretionary spending as well as programs such as education and food stamps. With money per pupil being cut out of the budget, many Michigan residents may start to wonder why the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign continues to be fully funded when education of the future generation has been put on the back burner. When word gets out to Michigan residents over the inequity of the situation, through articles and statements from conservative groups, such as the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, people will call up their congressman and demand for a different approach and different priorities, which may include less funding for the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign.
Despite this conflict between the two parties and between groups, successful policy proposals are still made. There has not been a standstill with little accomplished. Of course, this depends on one's definition of a successful policy proposal. In this case, a successful policy will be defined as a policy, once proposed, was enacted with favorable results to the proposing party. The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association and several other pro-"Pure Michigan" groups persuaded congressmen and Governor Rick Snyder to create a "more permanent funding stream by establishing Michigan's 21st Century Jobs Fund as a legal funding source for tourism promotion" as well as adding "$10 million to the Legislature's current "Pure Michigan" appropriation of $15 million for this fiscal year." With more than the original policy proposal granted, and just $3 million dollars shy of what many feels qualifies for full funding for the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign, it is fair to call this a successful policy proposal in the eyes of the tourism industry and the congressmen who's districts are heavily dependent upon tourism. However, the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association was close to not achieving this success. If House Bill 4160 had not been passed, funding would have dropped to $5 million, a little less than some of the lower levels of funding for the campaign. Where groups against the Campaign would welcome decreased government funding, supporters of the campaign believe this would have been "barely enough to keep the doors open on the state welcome center bathrooms...[and] would be very bad news." Regardless of past successes and failures for both groups in the past, one can only hope that future proposals attempt to create more agreement and take into account the points and criticisms both sides have raised.
In order to create a source of funding for the Campaign in which both sides of the argument will be marginally happy, certain compromises can be made. If there was to be a government matching program, in which the state government agreed to match the amount the tourism industry invested toward the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign, then there may be less tension between the differing sides. Although both groups would not be fully satisfied with the new predicament, it would at least have aspects that both groups could respect. Those against government funding of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign, believing that the tourism industry should pay, would see reduced investment by the government and monetary contribution by the tourism industry that claims to benefit from the program. Those in favor of the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign would still see government funding but would now be held accountable for funding a program that benefits them almost exclusively.
In conclusion, the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign is a state funded program that benefits a specific sector of Michigan's economy. Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature disagree over various specifics of the program, mainly how much the government spends and the source of funding. Groups throughout the state, especially those that have taken a decisive stand in favor or against the Campaign are not as civil in their disagreements as the political parties and a compromise that will please both sides seems unlikely. Groups against the Campaign believe it should be fully funded by the tourism industry while groups in favor of the Campaign believe the government benefits enough in sales tax to make investment in the "Pure Michigan" Ad Campaign a responsible investment. Past and future successes for both sides have depended on the amount of funding, which tends to fluctuate depending on the funds the state of Michigan has available. Although a form of compromise could be reached by having the government match funds put forward by the tourism industry, which would make the tourism industry active investors in the program, this seems unlikely despite the success benefactors claim. Whether the statistics and claimed returns are correct is something that should be further looked into as well as fully divulged. With the state government investing millions of dollars in a Campaign that claims return, it is not unreasonable to seek methodology of testing so that statistics can be checked and so that a stable return on investment can be concluded.
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