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Doyle’s 37% Problem

I’ve been following the mess that is the Wisconsin State Budget for as long as I’ve been politically aware; which for me makes it around Fall of 2000 when I was interning back home for Tecumseh’s now long-gone Grafton facility.

I wrote this in college in April 2002, when under then-Governor Scott McCallum, the state had a mere (mere when compared to now I guess) $1.1 billion hole to fill.

If there is one good thing to come out of this entire budget mess, it is that the state finally has to look at how it appropriates money. Looking back at past (i.e. Tommy Thompson) budgets over the last decade, two things should immediately come to mind. The first was that overindulgence was the word of the decade. With the economy pumping out enough tax revenue to buy anything, both sides of the aisle did that. The idea of a “rainy day fund” was a concept foreign to those “progressive” thinkers under the Capitol dome.

The second was that the budget grew until becoming the $47 billion monster passed last year with treats for everyone in the state who cried foul for not having enough. Amazing that the incomes, purchases, and property of Wisconsin businesses, landowners, and wage-earners can supply it all on a mere 5 million people.

So for those of you keeping score; the “McCallum Fix” never really happened.  What happened instead – after a political dog and pony show run by State Senators Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), and a third Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee – was a deal struck where the state’s portion of the federal tobacco lawsuit was mortgaged off and the state’s credit card budget known as the structural deficit only grew.

Doyle goes on to win election to the Governor’s Mansion by stating he could manage the state’s finances better than the previous Thompson-McCallum administrations.  The assumed budget deficit around Election Day 2002 was I believe to be $2.8 billion.

Part of Doyle’s re-election campaign in 2006 was a talking point on how he closed a “$3.2 billion state deficit without raising taxes.”  Of course, that was a bunch of lies, and I didn’t buy it hook, line, and sinker like the Journal Sentinel editorial board and most other newspapers in the state.

So, after re-reading my column from 2002, I did some digging and asking around some legislative staffer friends I had and asked a simple question: “What was the amount of the budget Doyle submitted?”  Mind you, this isn’t what’s going to be the final product.  For starters, it appears Doyle will submit – again – to the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee another budget based on the new revenue figures his office is now talking about; then the JFC will do its magic.  Or Joint Finance could just tell Doyle to “Not even bother” and just come up with a new budget, and completely scrap the one they’ve been working on.

As the Journal Sentinel reported on Saturday, it must be a blast being one of those Legislative Democrats who are finally on Joint Finance.  Hell of a lot of fun, ‘just living the dream, huh?

The average figures I got from my staffer friends was ‘the neighborhood of $63 Billion, $64.5 Billion if you include the bonding.’  The bonding, of course is the basis for the next structural deficit.  Of course, the only numbers I could find Doyle’s budget website was around $69-70 Billion for the two-year budget period.  That figure was from February of this year and has since left the building, so for math purposes alone, I’m going to go with the $64.5 Billion.

So going by the figures (Again, view these as media gathered numbers like in 2002), in the four budgets he’s submitted to the legislature, Jim Doyle has increased state spending an amazing $17.5 Billion, or 37.2%.  The idea of restraint under his tenure – not to mention economic reality – is not even a thought in his head it appears.

So, while the apparent talking points going out from Doyle and his lapdogs at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin – notice their silence on the budget folks? – is for all Democratic leadership and office holders to ‘blame Wall Street’ for the budget; the reality is over-spending by Doyle and the state legislature is the main cause.

In a later post, I’ll go into what was the mentality of the Wisconsin government to overspend at the rate they have.

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  • Simple; it’s all about buying votes with “somebody else’s” money. Never mind that it is more properly like the “Tip each other $20 and put it on the Underhill tab” gag from “Fletch”.

  • Recess Supervisor

    Politicians are all short-term creatures. If things are good, they will always be good. If there are surpluses, there will always be surpluses. So we created a bunch of programs in the 90’s and now nobody has the political courage to eliminate anything. And the Republicans are just as bad there as the Democrats. Hell, look at the last budget, where instead of real leadership from the Assembly, we got half-assed ideas from guys like Frank Lasee about cutting GPR funding for the UW Law School. Ask those guys for real solutions and they give you gimmicks.

    Most voters are not explicitly anti-government. They just want to know that what government is doing, it’s doing intelligently and in a cost-effective manner. Unfortunately, today’s crop of Republicans doesn’t seem to have a lot of ideas in that regard. You’ve got people in safe seats who want to drown the baby with the bathwater, and a handful of Republicans in swing seats who are terrified to do anything lest they lose the couple hundred votes that they won by last cycle. That’s a bad, bad combination.