Elections matter, the Democrats are always telling us. So now we have Democrats ruling the roost in the State Capitol, having finally captured the State Assembly last fall. For the first time in 20 years they control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office. Aren't we lucky!
Have you seen their first budget?
Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum - the two Marks - Mark Pocan from the Assembly and Mark Miller from the Senate, co-chair the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. (I served with both on the Dane County Board.)
At the head of this wayward ship is Captain Jim E. Doyle. That makes three Dane County Democrats heading up the executive branch and the budget-writing committee of the Legislature. Who would have thought the Democrat(ic) Party of Wisconsin would allow itself to be taken hostage by Dane County and Co.?
So, between Mark, Mark, and Jim E., they have come up with a budget. Admittedly, they have been dealt a tough hand. A $6.6 billion deficit is a tough row. But it has been 7 years since the last downturn. As brother Rick Berg points out in last week's print Isthmus, can't say they didn't see it coming.
Gov. Doyle in February proposed increasing state spending by 7.7% (9% when borrowing is included) and adding 1,011 new state employees. [From Bad to Worser Still]
I have been inspecting the blogs and the daily newspaper editorials. No one is coming to the defense of this budget. Not Paul Soglin, not Ed Garvey, not The Capital Times. Not even the Wisconsin Democrat(ic) Party itself can find the nose plugs that would enable it to churn out the obligatory press release praising the budget. Now, the Dems are preparing for their annual convention June 12-13 in Green Bay, "with Democrats in full control of government for the first time in more than two decades" by touting "the Difference is Leadership," as their theme.
It sure is a different kind of leadership. Let's examine the budget as proposed by Jim E. Doyle and pureed by the two Marks as it came out of the Joint Finance Committee this weekend.
Elected school board members hate it, employers hate it, the police hate it, victims rights groups hate it, tax watchdog groups hate it, and open government champions hate the way it was cooked up in secret. But injury trial lawyers and the all-powerful teachers union cleaned up.
No long-term reforms. A total lack of imagination. More bad ideas than an over-caffeinated 9/11 conspiracy convention:
- Wasteful earmarks, 29 in all, including a $6.6 million environmental center in Dane County and a $28 million building on the UW-Madison campus that was not even requested by the University. [Democratic committee members find money for pet projects - La Crosse Tribune.]
- Favors for their special interests, namely the teachers union and the injury lawyers' lobby.
- Ambulance chasers get help finding more deep pockets; they'll be able to sue people and businesses that are only a small percentage at fault to be liable for 100 percent of the damages.
- Going all marshmallow-y on crime - undoing truth in sentencing and letting prisoners out of jail sooner. Charlie Sykes runs through the lengthy list of criminals eligible for early release.
- Cutting the Department of Justice by another $13.5 million - 10 percent of the agency's budget - on top of the mandatory furloughs already ordered for all state government departments. Apparently it is partisan political payback against a Republican A.G.
- Encouraging illegal immigration by doling out drivers licenses to people who aren't supposed to be here - a $3 million upper. That makes Wisconsin one of only four states to allow it even as two other states rescind their programs.
- In-state state university tuition rates for illegal immigrants.
- Gutting welfare reform by reducing the requirement to work. [Public Opposes Governor Doyle's Changes to W2, WPRI]
- Gutting school choice by cutting per pupil reimbursements even as it increased public school payments and by requiring the unproven nostrum of bilingual teaching. "With one sentence fragment - undiscussed, undebated, largely unnoticed - lawmakers apparently will tell some of the most successful and popular elementary schools in Milwaukee that they must change everything." - Patrick McIlerhan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Making law enforcement officials collect racial data on everyone they stop. Talk about the PC police!
- Insurance mandates for exotic care, such as cochlear implants, that will raise the cost of everyone's coverage.
- A provision to allow non-profit groups, presumably including fraternities, to offer free beer and wine at fundraisers without getting a municipal license, something that worries the League of Municipalities and the Madison Police Department.
- Blasting a hole in local school district budgets by eliminating the QEO.
- A proposed $260 million tax on oil companies that - get this - cannot be passed along to consumers that even Pocan admits is probably unconstitutional and certainly will be contested in court.
All done under the cover of darkness after hammering out the details in secret meetings. The MacIver Institute's take on the budget talks about the secrecy.
- About the evil oil companies: Prohibit them from passing the proposed new oil tax increase along to consumers? Why don't they do this to all business taxes? Here is the dark and dirty secret of taxation - ALL taxes are passed on to the final destination, the consumer. That's right, the corporation tax is baked into every Archway cookie and Domino's pizza you purchase. Taxes are a cost of doing business.
Passing a law to prevent that is the ultimate King Canute hubris. Tracking it is impossible, no matter what the Department of Revenue may say officially. Proving it in court - impossible. Singling out companies to tax - rather than products - is itself probably unconstitutional.
- About the teachers union: Repealing the qualified economic offer for public school teachers will encourage John Matthews and other teachers union bosses to raid the bank. Currently, an offer of a 3.8 percent increase qualifies as an acceptable offer. True, the repeal does not take effect until next year but in the meanwhile, arbitration is off the table for one year. John H. Ashley, Executive Director, Wisconsin Association of School Boards calls that "a recipe for significant layoffs and drastic cuts in our schools."
The Legislature's budget-writing committee put forward a budget that deliberately puts school boards at a disadvantage in contract negotiations with teachers in a misguided effort to protect teachers.
Second only to lining its own members' pockets on the permanent WEAC to-do list is Killing School Choice in Milwaukee.
With 20,000 students in 125 private schools, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program produces higher graduation rates, saves Wisconsin taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, and improves public school results. On the merits, such a successful program should be expanded.
Instead, opponents seek to suffocate Milwaukee's choice program with financial cuts and a barrage of red tape cloaked in the guise of "accountability." Their strategy will mean a slow but certain death. The Institute for Justice.
- "A trial lawyers' nirvana" - that is what the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council calls the big wet one given to the Dems' favorite lobby. "It screams for a process more open than the State budget as a vehicle to overhaul our civil justice system. We simply don't believe it is your intent to punish virtually all of your constituents merely to benefit the few trial lawyers who are behind this effort."
- GM production to return to Janesville? Let's hope so. Want to bet Jim Doyle is filling a bag of taxpayer-supported goodies to woo the General? Well, good for him. Where is The Capital Times belly aching about corporate welfare now?
Well, well, well
A man accused of robbing several Madison gas stations in March jumped bail Tuesday and eluded police for about two hours, during which Madison police say he may have robbed a bank and a retail store.
Justin M. Simpson, 20, was under electronic bail monitoring by the Dane County Circuit Court at his mother's house in Fitchburg when he clipped his monitoring bracelet at about 4:25 p.m. and left, said Lt. David McCaw of the Madison Police Department.
We were told these bracelets could not be removed, remember?
That 911 lawsuit
The law is clear, even to an informed layman such as myself. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk was never liable in the legal sense for the death of Brittany Zimmermann last year in the botched 911 emergency center phone call.
"Whether a county, acting through its legislative and executive branches, decides to implement the recommendations of a consultant calls for the quintessential exercise of discretion," Judge Maryann Sumi wrote in throwing out most of the claims against the county.
Ignoring the consultant's report, however, was political malpractice. Just not liable in a tort action.
Strange New Respect #3
"We get a very supersensitive liberal audience" on HBO's "Real Time," and "it's always that limousine liberal crowd that just has their finger on the politically correct button...That's what bugs me the most about liberals is that they just - they object before they even know what they're objecting to." - comedian Bill Maher, quoted on NewsBusters. Here is the video.