Bad Budget Made Worse

June 5, 2009

When Governor Doyle introduced his budget of punishing tax hikes, reckless government spending increases and job-killing policy ideas in February, I was optimistic the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee would seize the opportunity to make major improvements to the fiscal document. Unfortunately, after months of backroom meetings and late night deals, Democrats on the Committee have managed to make a bad budget worse in four specific ways.

 

This budget taxes too much. Gas, phone, hospital, electricity, property and garbage taxes are going up for everyone in the budget. Others will soon see higher income and sales taxes too. In the midst of a recession, Democrats have now enacted or proposed roughly $3 billion in new tax hikes. These are tax increases that will slow economic growth and stretch middle class family budgets even thinner.

 

This budget spends irresponsibly. Considering the state budget was $6.6 billion in the red, now was not the time for new or unnecessary spending. But the Democrats’ budget actually increases spending by about 7%. And their multi-billion dollar spending choices fail to match up with the priorities of the average taxpayer. This budget doesn’t provide enough money to keep arsonists in prison for their whole terms, but it does provide $500,000 for the Oshkosh Opera House, $46,000 for new recycling bins for the Town of Wrightstown and bunch of other pork-barrel spending to fund some legislators’ pet projects.

 

This budget contains several provisions that are job-killers. The budget is meant to be a purely fiscal document that is only about how much it takes to fund state government services. Unfortunately dozens of “policy items” that are actually complex bills that should have been considered separately on their own merits were crammed into this giant budget bill. New “joint and several liability” rules would make a home or business owner who is only 20% at fault in an accident financially liable for 100% of the damages. New auto insurance coverage mandates will raise the average family’s rates by $300 per year. A new “prevailing wage” requirement will force up local municipalities’ road and economic development project costs.

 

The process by which this budget was assembled was awful. Huge portions of this budget were negotiated at night, behind closed doors and then sprung upon Republican committee members only moments before the vote was taken. The public was robbed of its right to have controversial state law changes debated and considered in public.

 

Now that it has advanced from the Joint Finance Committee, the budget moves to the full Legislature. Senate and Assembly leaders say they hope to have the budget on the Governor’s desk before the end of June.

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