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Issue of the Week: State Budget Details Reveal GOP Pettiness

Jun. 11, 2013
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We have no doubt that Republican Gov. Scott Walker will use the pending state budget, which was stacked with special interest legislation by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) in the wee hours of last Wednesday morning, as a platform for re-election in 2014 and then a presidential campaign in 2016. As it stands now, the state budget has all of the headline-grabbing items an ambitious, right-wing politician needs, including a huge, regressive income-tax cut that benefits the wealthy; almost $1 billion in bonding for new freeways; the expansion of an unaccountable voucher school system throughout the state; a $10,000 tax credit for parents who send their kids to private schools; a ton of special interest legislation unrelated to the state budget; and a total refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which will cost state taxpayers $150 million more, potentially drop 29,000 children from BadgerCare and insure 84,000 fewer Wisconsinites than the federal plan.

But these provisions are just the headline-grabbers.

Tucked into the state budget are shortsighted details that will fail to create even one job, while harming our quality of life.

The Republican-led retribution against the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism tops that list. The nonprofit center has had its high-quality reporting published in more than 230 news outlets, including the Shepherd Express, and maintains an office on the UW-Madison campus, where it trains student journalists to dig into complex issues. It’s drawn the ire of Walker and his pals, perhaps because it broke the story of conservative Justice David Prosser choking fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, among other things. Republican State Senator Dale Schultz found the pettiness of his colleagues to be more than he could handle.

The JFC also did the unthinkable when it gave its blessing to potential no-bid sales of valuable state assets, including the state Capitol, with little public oversight. If that isn’t a magnet for corruption, we don’t know what is.

The JFC also added an amendment that would weaken communities’ ability to manage stormwater runoff and flooding by invalidating local stormwater ordinances that are more strict than the state’s rules. So thank the GOP the next time you’ve got a sewer backup in your basement and the sewerage commission has to dump untreated stormwater into Lake Michigan.

While we’re talking about Lake Michigan, as incredible as it may sound, the JFC decided to redefine the shoreline of Lake Michigan to ensure that the Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele-backed Couture development can go ahead with fewer questions.

And Walker and the Republican-dominated JFC were able to reward their pals in the bond bailsman, paint manufacturing, hospital and cable TV industries, which should open up new streams of campaign donations.

Walker and his Republican allies used to denounce backroom deals and late-night votes in the state Legislature, where special interest legislation is inserted into the budget bill without the legislators having time to read it. Now they are engaging in the same corrupt practices that they had condemned, and doing so on steroids. We’re asking the state Assembly and Senate to think about our children’s and grandchildren’s future and to amend the current version of the budget so that it works for the interests of all Wisconsinites—not just the special interest groups who are buying favors at the expense of average taxpaying citizens.


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