Ten Ways the Budget Could Be Better

The 2011-2013 Budget for the State of Wisconsin is the most fiscally responsible two-year Badger State spending plan in at least a generation. It pays the bills, is short on accounting gimmicks, restrains spending and includes measures that will improve government efficiency and invigorate the private marketplace in order to help individuals and businesses here create jobs.

It is a good budget.

That being said, it could be better.

The document forwarded by the legislature still contains onerous interference into the private market. Program cuts that could have been made were modified for political expediency. And, although it has a dramatic decrease in earmarks over budgets past, is not pork free.

In a perfect world, we would see vetoes on the following items:

1. Craft brewers are gaining market share because they are meeting a consumer demand. The Legislature has no business restricting the production and marketing of a good or service on the basis of the size or scope of the actors involved.

2. On SeniorCare, the governor got it right the first time. The legislature’s moves added unnecessary expense to the budget. There is no sound reason Wisconsin’s seniors enrolled in the program shouldn’t first exhaust federal remedies, such as Medicare Part D. We are the only state in the nation with a stand-alone drug entitlement program for the elderly.

3. At a time when we are empowering management in their dealings with government labor, tying the hands of the Milwaukee Police Department makes neither fiscal nor ideological sense. The proposal that mandates that suspended officers receive pay during termination appeals has no place in state law, or this budget.

4. The legislature meddled when it decided to create an individual income tax deferral for investments in Wisconsin businesses. Why do they insist on picking winners and losers? Does the Legislature really believe an investor will commit his/her retirement savings to a Wisconsin business because the government will hand out a modest break on the capital gains? Investment of capital flows to attractive projects and businesses regardless of geographic boundaries.

5. The recycling mandate and its 19 million dollar price tag should end up back on the scrap heap. If a government entity believes a service is necessary, it should pay for it.

6. State taxpayers should not subsidize high-speed broadband internet access. WiscNet should not be a government priority. Private service providers are fully capable of meeting this need without government competition.

7. We would have preferred to see zero dollars in bonding authority for the purchase of more land via the Stewardship Fund. The legislature significantly cut Walker’s request but they should have eliminated it all together. The state owns enough land.

8. And while it will not happen, you would not hear us howl if the veto pen was used to make the School Choice plan available to all families statewide. We need an education system whose sole focus is the education of the child, not artificial boundaries or the status quo.

9. This budget modifies state law to make it easier and less expensive for government to exercise eminent domain in a few specific cases. It’s a needless increase in the ability of the state to interfere with property rights. If changes to the state’s eminent domain law are truly warranted, they should be considered as a separate piece of legislation, not in the budget.

10. Finally, the pork and earmarks remain a thorn. As we said earlier, this is hardly a pork-laden document like the Doyle budgets of the last decade. Nonetheless the habit has proven hard to break. And while this list is not comprehensive, worthy or not, these projects deserve to be line-itemed out.

  • The elimination of the state per diem limit for sewerage district officials
  • The new position at Crex Meadows Wildlife Education Center
  • The $10,000 for the Sheboygan Aerospace port
  • $300,000 for the Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette
  • $25,000 for the Copper Falls State Park in Oconto

The State Budget is a solid plan. The best this state has seen in decades. It eliminates the structural deficit that has plagued this state for the last three administrations. But why settle for good?

Governor Walker will announce his vetoes on Sunday. Clearly he could make the plan even better.