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Posts tagged with “State Budget”

State Visitors Centers Worried About Map Shortage

Interesting story out of La Crosse I spotted on Twitter.

A bill that would help Wisconsin’s budget issue could also result in a state map shortage.

Several state lawmakers want to pass a bill that would prohibit the state from producing free maps that are available at the state’s visitor centers for the next two years.

The department of motor vehicles issued map could still be distributed until the current supply runs out.

La Crosse officials say the free maps are very popular throughout the area’s visitor centers.

La Crosse Area Visitors Bureau Executive Director Dave Clements says, “We go through over 20,000 of those a year and so its obviously something the consumer, the visitor, the tourist is interested in having.”

So where can Visitors Centers get more maps?

Oh, I have an idea… (From September in the Journal Sentinel)

The longstanding practice of state lawmakers giving away Wisconsin highway maps to constituents at taxpayer expense has some legislators and government watchdogs calling for the handouts to be reined in because of perceived abuses.

Assembly Majority Leader Thomas Nelson (D-Kaukauna) has led the way, distributing 36,000 maps in 2007 and 2008 – more than the 30,083 total votes cast in his November 2008 election.

Nelson has handed out 76,400 maps since he came to the Assembly in 2005 – about 20,000 more maps than people in his district.

“It’s a big hit with my constituents, and it’s a service I’m happy to offer and will continue to offer,” Nelson said.

In all, lawmakers have given away nearly 1.4 million maps worth about $190,000 since 2005, state records show.

“What an egregious waste of money,” said Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay), who has distributed 2,400 maps over the five years.

Cowles said he thinks the state should stop printing maps and leave that to others instead of the Department of Transportation.

I oppose Cowles idea of making the Wisconsin DOT stop printing maps; but I do think the longstanding practice of giving state legislators as many maps as they want should end.  WisDOT could give them instead to local communities instead or just allow them to be handed out at gas stations like Packers schedules.

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Again, It’s a Story About Disclosure

One of the realities that I’m still a little surprised about over the Sunday Journal Sentinel’s story about the Doyle travel records is how both sides of the Cheddarsphere seem to have missed the point about it.  Owen pounced on it as a sign Doyle was a free-spending oaf, while others pounced on the JS for even covering the story.

Here’s the reality: There is a story here.  It’s about the Doyle Administration failing to fully disclose its record of spending.  Anything else is wishful thinking on the attackers and defenders of Doyle.

Honestly, I believe Jim Doyle when he says he’s being frugal about his spending on travel.  One of the largest things many member of what I’ve called “The Cult of TGT” and many other Wisconsin conservatives need to get over is the idea that Tommy Thompson ever gave a damn about balancing the state books when he was Governor.  (Now, I don’t believe Doyle does either, but under Thompson the state’s expenses ballooned out at a faster pace than Doyle has in his seven years in the Governor’s Mansion.

That being said…at least with Tommy, we knew what the hell was being paid for.  The same cannot be said of the Governorship of James E. Doyle.  Why he appears to not understand this appears to be some sort of severe character flaw with the man.

Gov. Jim Doyle defended his travel documentation Tuesday in response to a news report that concluded his travel records didn’t meet state standards.

“Nothing I do is secret or undocumented, as they claim,” Doyle said in a meeting with The Post-Crescent editorial board.

A recent report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, based on an investigation by the paper, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and a University of Wisconsin-Madison reporting class, found that “three-fourths of the time in 2007 and 2008, Doyle and his staff didn’t supply receipts as required under state travel policy.”

Doyle defended his office’s recordkeeping. He said he uses credit cards in travel “to make sure that every expense was accounted for” and that credit card bills show what was purchased.

“There is a full record of what we have done,” said Doyle, who noted his frugality.

“You better pack a lunch when you travel with me,” Doyle said. “We don’t stop places. … It turns out that compared to Gov. Thompson, I spend about a third per year of what he did and compared to Gov. McCallum, about a half per year.”

In an e-mail, Mark Katches, the Journal Sentinel’s deputy managing editor for projects, investigations and planning, said the story wasn’t about whether Doyle was frugal.

“The story was about whether he followed the same rules the state expects all employees and elected officials to follow,” Katches said. “And in dozens of cases, he did not.”

The story quoted the state’s procurement manual for credit cards, which says, “The cardholder will maintain a record of purchases and retain all original receipts.”

It quoted an employee of the state Legislative Audit Bureau who said credit card statements don’t provide as many details as receipts.

What Doyle fails to see that what is office is doing is akin to working in the private sector and not giving a full expense of charges to the pay clerk.  Sure he’s telling the clerk “We spent $45.68 at this restuarant,” but only using the credit card statement to back it up.  Any business will DEMAND a receipt of the expenditure.  As someone who’s filled out expense reports in the private sector, government, and “Think Tank World,” I’m literally shocked Doyle is blowing off simple accounting rules practiced by 95% of the known world.  Clearly Doyle honestly thinks the rules don’t apply to him, perhaps this showcases his parents did a number on him when it came to thinking he can get away with things.

(Wonder if that’s what it’s like growing up the scion of a politically-connected family?  Are you literally told rules for “the little people?”)

Here’s hoping the statewide press – and it now is the statewide press to the utter dismay of Bruce Murphy, who must also not ask for thorough records of employee expenditures at Milwaukee Magazine – keeps it up.  Taxpayers have a right to know what their elected officials are spending their money on.  Doyle’s continued sloppiness on expense account records should end.

What does he have to hide on a hotel bill in the first place?  Some low-level aide like the pay-per-view movies a bit too much?

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More Budget Fun

Everytime I read a post by ‘capper’ where he goes after Scott Walker on the Milwaukee Co. budget, I’m so glad the good Lord smiles on those of us on the other side and slaps down his AFSCME Council 40-backed hubris with news like this.

Yeah Chris, Scott Walker has much, much, worse problems to deal with.

I see exactly what you mean…

For the second time in seven years, state government had to borrow a record $800 million to make sure it can make the next cycle of payments to local governments and school districts, officials said Monday.

“The state must issue operating notes every year as large payments to local governments come due,” said Linda Barth, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration.

But a Legislative Fiscal Bureau summary (Table 8) of state government’s use of short-term loans — called “operating notes,” which must be repaid within a year — said it was only the fifth time since 1999 that cash-flow problems forced officials to issue those notes.

The last time state government had to borrow $800 million — which, for comparison purposes, is about how much would be raised if the 5% state sales tax was raised to 6% — was 10 years ago, the Fiscal Bureau reported. One year ago, $600 million was borrowed.

According to the Department of Administration’s official summary of the transaction, the loans were sold at an interest rate of 0.46% to three buyers: Barclay’s Capital Inc., $550 million; Citibank Global, $150 million, and Wachovia Bank, $100 million.

Second time in seven years…hasn’t Jim Doyle been Governor for seven years?

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Stop Him Before He Violates the State Constitution Again!

Old habits are hard to break, aren’t they?

Gov. Doyle’s veto pen may have brought back to life the so-called Frankenstein veto, though the resurrection may have been inadvertent.

LFB director Bob Lang said in the agencies initial review of the Doyle’s vetoes, a partial veto of a provision on a study of intermediate care facilities for the mentally retarded struck parts of three sentences to create a new one. That use of the veto would appear to be contrary to the April 2008 state constitutional amendment, Lang said.

Lang said that the violation was likely inadvertent. (The memo on the veto can be viewed here.)

As passed by the Assembly and Senate, the provision required the DHS Secretary to appoint a committee to study the need for and preservation of the care facilities. The legislature’s version required the study be submitted to the JFC by Dec. 1.

Doyle’s partial veto narrowed the scope of the study, eliminated the committee, and deletes the Dec. 1 reporting date.

Lang advised the JFC that a legal opinion should be sought, but said a override was not the best route.

He said the apparent violation of the constitutional amendment would “render the veto inoperable” and that the budget would revert to the language in the document approved by the Legislature.

I’m not a Wisconsin state constitutional scholar, but often I play one on this blog, but wouldn’t it just be more correct to assume the entire portion of the budget he combined three sentences into one is vetoed?  If you actually read the veto (below), you can see Doyle’s creating policy never before agreed upon by the legislature – the reason for the “Frankenstein Veto” in the first place – while at the same time, eliminating passed policy; which in the legal sense is a veto.

Per se, it’s safe to say the Governor’s intent was to veto that which the legislature passed in full session.  It’s safe then to assume the best course of action would be for a double-nullification: One backing the initial veto, and another eliminating the new policy.

The legislature can always re-pass a law doing exactly what the bill was supposed to do before the illegal veto was written.

The actual veto is here.

Frankenstein Veto 09-11

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The Blame Game Must End

Well worth the read is today’s editorial in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on the state budget signed yesterday by Governor Jim Doyle – a wholly-owned subsidiary of WEAC – in which they get tired of Doyle’s near seven-year blame game on the who’s really at fault at the budget.

What’s the old saying about pointing at someone else?  ‘For that one finger you have pointed at someone else, you have three pointing back at you.’

In a practice that dates back at least as far as former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s administration, Wisconsin has been operating under a Ponzi scheme of a state budget that routinely passes some spending along to the next two-year cycle — presuming the money will be there to spend in two years. The intention of this “structural deficit” is to make the budget look balanced, even though a business operating under generally accepted accounting procedures would show buckets of red ink.

Doyle is not the first governor to gamble with taxpayers’ dollars. But he has now had nearly seven years in office to correct the fiscal irresponsibility of the past, and he can no longer blame Thompson, former Gov. Scott McCallum or even Wall Street.

For better or for worse, this budget is entirely the responsibility of Doyle and his Democratic colleagues who hold a majority in both houses. When Smoke-Free Wisconsin — one of Doyle’s biggest friends in Madison — inquires how the budget can raise taxes on smokers $300 million while cutting successful anti-smoking programs by 55 percent, Doyle can’t blame Thompson or the real estate markets.

Doyle frankly has lost on his bet playing Tommy Thompson’s game of “rack up spending, rack up borrowing, have the economy bail you out.”  Frankly, if it weren’t for his personal charisma and economic tax revenue of the Tech Boom, Thompson very well may have been facing a situation similar to the one Doyle is now. And as a budget-watcher since 2001, you could tell former Governor McCallum was the first loser of this gamble in the post-Thompson era.

It’s amazing for how much these two men [Doyle and Thompson] hate and loathe each other, that they are mirror-images of each other as political operators.

In 2006, Doyle was able to wrap Mark Green in with ‘the mess of DC’ and other factors to win his re-election and blame on his budgetary problems.  He’s not going to have the luxury of that in 2010.  Seriously, will he have the stones to blame the Obama Administration and a Democratically-controlled Congress on Wisconsin’s economic and budgetary problems?

If so, bring the popcorn for the show as the DC-based Chicago Alinskyites train their guns on Wisconsin’s Greatest Momma’s Boy.

And for those Democrats like Scot Ross at the ever-decreasing in influence (and budget) One Wisconsin Now, want to hold on to their dreams of “two years of continued Bush-blaming to save them in 2010,” I seriously hope and pray the dream pays well.  We live in an America which has been so transformed by the 22-minute situation comedy and microwave it wants answers and solutions 20 minutes ago.

Excuses and a blame game aren’t going to cut it.  We need grown ups in Madison, and currently, you wonder if there are more than five on either side of the aisle.

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Cartoon of the Wisconsin Political Season

We go local once again with Joe Heller of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Heller - State Budget Train Wreck

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A Quote Built for Radio & TV Spots

So I was scouring the Internet last night and this morning from the aftermath of the Assembly passing the state budget.  During that process, I don’t know if the man’s ego or anger of the process finally got the better of him, but JFC Co-Chairman Mark Pocan (D-Madison) may have given Assembly Republicans THE QUOTE when it comes to the 2010 races.

If (and given past Assembly race fights handled by the State GOP, that could be a BIG “If”) things pretty much go how they’re likely to go, this puppy could be ridden for sometime.

Thank you Mark, seriously.  (via the Wisconsin Radio Network)

Madison Democrat Mark Pocan said the plan does what Democrats pledged they would do after gaining the majority in the Assembly: dealing with a record deficit, while protecting schools, public safety and health care, and shielding working families from big tax hikes. A family earning the median state income, said Pocan will pay “about 128 bucks” in new taxes and fees. “Given a $6.6 billion deficit, a historic deficit, I don’t think that’s all that bad.”

The WisPolitics Budget Blog has it that Pocan’s math put ‘the impact of the budget to the median family at about $128.10 annually.’

If you believe that local governments and school boards – especially with the QEO about to be blown up – are going to keep their local property taxes down, or that the rest of the budget won’t top numbers greater that “$128.10 a year,” you must be sniffing something on State Street.

Wait a minute, this is a Madison Liberal I’m talking about…that’s very likely what has happened.

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Budget Conferencing in the Dark

Ah, why not?  Every other part of this process was done in secret, why make the really important ones open to the public when we’re so close to the exciting conclusion.

You know, the one where taxpayers get hosed, businesses shut down or leave the state, and the only folks smiling at the end all collect government paychecks.

There will be no formal action on the state budget until Tuesday, a delay that allows legislative leaders to meet privately to try to resolve major differences between the spending plans of the Assembly and Senate.

That would continue what has been a pattern of secrecy surrounding the $62.5 billion two-year budget.

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle kept his proposed budget secret until he gave it to the Legislature in February. And Democratic lawmakers at the next three steps in their process – the Joint Finance Committee, Assembly and Senate – also made their decisions behind closed doors.

Leaders of watchdog groups criticized the continued budget secrecy.

“Politicians never seem to learn that operating in secrecy only convinces the public that they are hiding something and makes people that much more suspicious of all politicians,” said Mike McCabe, head of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

“If informal, secret negotiations over the weekend end with agreement between the state Senate and the Assembly, citizens will wonder how they arrived at that agreement and what was changed or promised in order to get there,” said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin.

This is one of those times I wish both McCabe and Heck would do is go into their little file of press clippings about themselves and bring out all the quotes from Mark Pocan (D-Madison) when he was in the Minority whining about the lack of transparency in the process.  You know, the ones where it sounded like he actually gave a damn, and wasn’t really positioning himself to take over.

Because, giving him a pass just because ‘that’s how it was done in the past’ isn’t really going to cut it.

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Quote of the Day

Greg Bump, who appears to be living on only an intravenous of caffeine these days, from the Wisconsin Assembly Chamber:

We’ve reached midnight, and the lights just dimmed in the chamber. Are they trying to make it more conducive for napping? Or has the state really run out of money?

The Assembly went on to pass the budget around 5:20 this morning Wisconsin time, the vote was 50-48 with two Democrats (Ziegelbauer and Krusick) voting no. (The same two “No” votes in February for the ‘budget repair bill’ if memory serves.)  The only member not voting was Nick Milroy, a freshman Democrat from Superior, tending to his sick wife.

Jeff Wood no doubt helped his re-election chances (from the left at least) by securing no Democratic opponent by voting yes.

As for Bump’s joke up there, I’ll go with the latter.  I think the state really is on the verge of running out of money.  Anything else would be ‘playing politics,’ ain’t that right Governor Doyle?

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Bader: It’s a Buy-Off Fest

WTAQ AM radio host Jerry Bader up in Green Bay alerts me to  something on his blog regarding the state budget.  It is in essence, the first “Whip Count” of the Assembly Democrats.

It’s not what I would call reassuring if you’re a taxpayer – set to go to Assembly for a vote either next Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday depending on how debate goes – because if these numbers Bader has are correct, next week is going to be an amendment buy-off festival.

On the show this morning I reported that democrats, who control the State Assembly with 52 votes (and control the senate and the governor’s mansion) have somewhere between 32 and 34 votes on the current state budget proposal in that house.

An update this afternoon is that I now have two, separate sources confirming that current vote range as accurate. This would seem to indicate that even a good number of democrats are not comfortable with all the garbage swept into the sausage casing that is this budget.

I’m doing further digging to see which items are causing the most heartburn among dems.

Further, both sources tell me it’s likely this budget process will go to conference committee. This should give one pause. Typically a conference committee hammers our differences in divergent budgets forged by opposing parties. Say, for example, Republicans still held the Assemby and Democrats the Senate. They would each produce a budget; both budgets then go to conference committee where a single budget is forged.

But that process would seem quite strange when you have ONE party controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office; one big happy family as it were. So a conference committee for this budget would be much like a blissfully happy married couple seeking counseling.

So why would this happen (and I’m told the chances are about 90%)? Here’s a clue: a budget document forged in conference committee is unamendable; it’s a straight Aye or Nay vote in both houses.

Stay tuned…

I’ve written here before about the likelihood of a conference committee on the budget committee.  It’s clear now from Bader’s contacts, they didn’t just put together a bad document in Joint Finance, it was a politically toxic document as well.  What we’re about to see (if they are indeed 16-18 votes short) is a buy-off never before seen in Wisconsin politics.  Lobbyists will line the offices of queasy Democrats trying to get them to either on-board or to put in an amendment to ease the political nausea in their stomach.

This is going to get ugly.

As for AssDem leadership Mike Sheridan, Tom Nelson, and Mark Pocan – Way to run a ship there guys.

UPDATE: Bader passes along this update on what his Madison sources are telling him.

Budget update II: Dueling perceptions…One of my sources says the struggle for democratic votes(only about 35 committed votes as this point) comes entirely from the policy items in the budget.

This source says chief among them is the liability provision, QEO and “driver’s cards” for illegal immigrants. The source says as a result, the two houses will likely pass differing budget proposals as some of this stuff is shed in one house but perhaps not the other.

This source downplays another sources perception that the purpose of sending it to conference would be to make it unamendable. This source instead contends that there will be legitimate differences between the two houses that will have to be ironed out via committee. While these sources are in conflict, it appears clear that some of the most offensive policy stuff in this budget is offensive even to a number of dems.

Hell of a sausage JFC put together huh?

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