Budget

Problems left for the next budget writers

Kathleen Vinehout

By Senator Kathleen Vinehout

“Policy is who pays, who doesn’t pay and where the money gets spent,” said the President of the NAACP in a recent speech.

Policy making was center stage at the State Capitol when the long delayed $76 billion two-year state budget was rushed to passage just days after a majority of lawmakers voted to give a Taiwan billionaire $3 billion in state subsidies.

Budgets are about choices. Budget writers this year chose to leave major problems for the next budget writers.

Education is the most important job state government does. For years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed the state’s school funding formula was broken.

This budget, there were enough funds to change the formula. Efforts to do so were voted down. Instead, more state dollars were spent on vouchers for unaccountable private schools.

Got Budget? No - and this is not a good thing

So, we're now a couple weeks and counting past when the state budget in Wiscosnin is due. At least we've managed to avoid a complete state shutdown, unlike a number of other states in the past month. But cruising along on past allotments isn't an answer. Once again we are seeing that although the current state administration is capable of winning votes, and keeping total control over the government, one thing they are genuinely terrible at is governing. 

Dana Wachs/Kathleen Vinehout Budget Town Hall

This is the town hall meeting that Kathleen Vinehout and Dana Wacs held on May 20, 2017 in Eau Claire, WI. They covered a large range of different topics, mostly concentrating on healthcare and the transportation budget. A lively discussion follows.  There were some equipment issues in the midst of recording this so it is recorded on two different cameras. I've attempted to even up the video quality and sound levels a little bit - but didn't completely succeed. Hoping to be able to afford a little bit of equipment upgrade as part of the Wis.Community project.

Wachs/Vinehout Budget Town Hall

Audit Hearing Highlights Problems and Way Forward with Transportation

Kathleen Vinehout
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Deputies are trying to figure out what caused a bridge on a rural road west of Arcadia to collapse.” The WEAU-TV story broke the same morning as a recent Legislative Audit Committee hearing on the State Highways Program.
 
As horrifying as the bridge collapse was, the story highlighted problems locals, others and I warned about for some time. Summer storms and floodwaters weakened older roads and bridges. State funds for local construction and maintenance did not kept pace with costs.
 
The recent audit, conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB), shined a light on long-standing problems with the Department of Transportation (DOT). Many lawmakers, including myself, advocated for this audit because an analysis of DOT programs has not been conducted for many years.

Scott Walker - Abuser

I used to have a friend who was in a terrible abusive relationship. Several times her boyfriend put her in the hospital, once having broken several bones in her face. Despite the pleas of all of her friends to leave this guy, she stayed. I'm not finding fault with her, lots of women in this situation stay, with a number of different reasons, though I suspect in her case it was a matter of astoundingly low self-esteem.

Why do I bring this up?  The story here is not that someone was abused - but the behavior of the abuser.  He knew exactly what buttons to push to keep this relationship going. He came to the hospital, was profusely sorry, always bringing a gift, something soft and cuddly and feminine like a teddy bear. She several times explained to me that he was incredibly good to her because he was always sorry for what he had done, and besides, they had amazing sex. I have to admit that I could never understand the concept of having amazing sex with someone who was physically and emotionally abusive, but this apparently works differently for other people.

Scott Walker as of late is coming to us with the ol' teddy bear. Because he senses we are getting restless. The state has suffered a fair amount of abuse at his hands.  Unions?  - Gone.  Schools? - Underfunded. Roads? - Barely passable, despite spending a wad of cash. But now the budget is suddenly flush ( well, in theory anyway) and we're making little tiny baby steps to get some of the money back. Our schools may get a little more cash, but only if we're all good girls and do like daddy says. We'll get some broadband money -- oh nowhere near what we could have had from the feds years ago, but taking our own tax money back from Washington would have been wrong.  They take it away in 100 dollar bills, and make up for it with loose change. The current administration is really good with the abuse, and they know that eventually we'll just give up and re-elect them because it's too dangerous to stand up for ourselves. And we don't even get great sex. 

It's time to walk out. CItizen Action of Wisconsin and several other nonprofits in the state are promoting an alternative budget. It is full of great ideas for shifting the state's priorities. Let's fight for change, and for getting people in Madison who care about us all the time, not just once in a while to convince us they still care.

Taking Credit for the Sun Coming Up

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Wisconsin lowered taxes and reduced regulation and that increased jobs in the state, right?” A journalist from a national newspaper asked about the state of our economy for a story he was writing.
 
“The assumption you are making is that the only thing holding back growth is taxes paid by business,” I told the reporter. “And regulation,” he added.
 

How to Fund Roads: A Balancing Act

Kathleen Vinehout

How to Fund Roads: A Balancing Act

       By Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

Funding roads is an important job for state leaders. Nine cents of every state budget dollar goes towards transportation. In the vagaries of Wisconsin state budgeting, this includes dollars the feds send Wisconsin (about forty cents of every road dollar comes from Uncle Sam).

A prudent fiscal manager must balance several factors to make wise transportation decisions. He or she must maintain our current investments, plan for future growth, pay scrupulous attention to efficiencies and quality construction, and reconcile spending with revenue.

In short, a prudent transportation budget is a balancing act.

Referenda Sustain Schools During Time of Decreasing State Support

Kathleen Vinehout
Referenda Sustain Schools During Time of Decreasing State Support
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“School districts these days more or less live and die by these referendums in terms of their ability to sustain programs and staff,” Dan Rossmiller of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) recently said as reported by the Isthmus.
 
So far in 2016, voters approved more than three-quarters of the 85 ballot referenda to raise property taxes to send more local dollars to schools. The nearly 77% pass rate is much higher than a few years ago.
 
People are voting to raise property taxes to keep their schools alive.
 
Recently I met with officials from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to understand school funding trends.  I learned there was a big shift in the success of referenda. Prior to 2011 (and the deep school cuts that year) about half of school referenda passed. In the past five years about two-thirds passed.
 
Historically, communities voted to raise school property taxes to build buildings. Prior to 2011, nearly two-thirds of referenda votes were for the purpose of raising debt for building projects.

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