Good for Tom Barrett. He came out with a plan to cut state government by $1.1 billion. That is less absurd than say, promising to create 250,000 jobs in four years. The plan is considerably more detailed than anything the other gubernatorial candidates have offered, but it is still vague enough to be dismissed largely as rhetoric. Alongside the $175 million that will apparently be saved by "Moving Wisconsin into the 21st Century with technological improvements," Barrett also plans to save the Badger State nearly $2 million by encouraging employees to turn their computers off when they're not using them.
However, it's definitely realistic in at least one way: Very little in the plan requires any political guts. In addition to adopting Republican talking points on "bureaucrats" and "paper pushers," Barrett beats up on the easiest target in the book: prisoners. Although Barrett mentions the explosion of prison costs in Wisconsin over the last decade, his biggest beef with our policies seems to be the "Cadillac" health care we offer inmates. Apparently if we cut fancy, schmancy things like sex-change operations we can cut $9 million. Did I call that or what last week? That's nothing in the context of a $1.1 billion Corrections budget, but it sounds good to some voters, which is why it was one of the two measures Barrett highlighted in his most recent TV ad.
Although Barrett also proposes looking into "evidence-based" alternative sentencing, he makes no bold statement that acknowledges the failure the corrections system has become for everybody except prison contractors and AFSCME prison employees.
If he only envisions saving $60 million on alternative sentencing and community supervision, he is not looking hard enough at the difference between Wisconsin and Minnesota, the latter of which spends a third as much on state prisons. Yes, that is in part because the Gophers give more authority to localities for prison costs, but wouldn't that be a good way to force local entities make the hard decisions about what people should actually be locked up?