wisconsin budget

Seeking Solutions for State Road Budget

Kathleen Vinehout

By

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

A tall man stopped me in the hall of the Capitol. “Can’t you just increase the gas tax?” he asked me. “I’m here to ask my Republican Senator to increase the gas tax. We need to fix the roads.”

He smiled. Then said, “Hi, my name is Steve. I’m a Republican. I just don’t think it’s conservative to keep borrowing to maintain the roads. We’ve got to pay for what we spend.”

Steve was earnest in his desire to find a solution to the road budget. I’ve heard similar concerns from folks attending my recent town hall meetings.

What Choices Would You Make?

Kathleen Vinehout

By

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

In the next few weeks, state lawmakers are voting on how Wisconsin spends money over the next two years. The choices legislators make will affect our communities and our lives.

 

Lawmakers are working off a spending plan submitted by the Governor earlier this year. Changes have already been made to his proposal.

 

For example, the budget writing committee removed much of the new money for the University of Wisconsin System. Big spending cuts in the last budget forced, among other things, a reorganization of UW-Extension, which may leave local communities without their own Ag or 4-H agents.

 

This year, the Governor’s budget returned about one-sixth of that cut and ties the increase to new “performance” standards. However, majority party lawmakers cut that increase roughly in half and disapproved a small decrease in tuition.

Sen. Vinehout - State Budget: Start with What's Real

Kathleen Vinehout

State Budget: Start with What’s Real

By

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

When it comes to paying the bills you’ve got to deal with what’s real. You can’t spend rhetoric.

 

Lawmakers are doubling down to deal with the state budget. Public hearings and town hall meetings are scheduled across the state. Many civic groups are hosting legislators in a discussion of the state budget. Many are burning the midnight oil to get to the bottom of the state’s financial matters.

 

Rep.Hintz Op/Ed: Wisconsin’s Self-Inflicted Budget Problems

Just six months after Wisconsin’s two-year state budget was passed, state revenues are projected to come in below expectations due to slow economic growth. Less revenue makes it more difficult for the current Legislature to pass bills with any cost. Even worse, the slower economic growth projections forecast significant budget challenges for the future 2017-2019 budget.

 

Rep. Hintz - Manufactured Band-Aid Can’t Hide Republican Budget Mess

(MADISON)  Following the announcement by the Department of Administration that the 2015 fiscal year ended with a $135 million balance, Legislative Republicans congratulated themselves on an end of fiscal year “surplus” that was $381 million less than the budget balance they started with.

 

Contrary to claims made by Republicans about “careful budgeting” and growing revenue that produced the year end $135 million balance, the reality is the budget fixes relied on skipping debt payments, raiding compensation reserves, and capturing two years of Potawatomi gaming payments in one year.

 

Governor Walker’s Vetoes Remove Legislative Oversight

Kathleen Vinehout
Governor Walker’s Vetoes Remove Legislative Oversight
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“I object to the infringement on gubernatorial power and duties,” wrote Governor Walker in his veto message. By his budget vetoes he made it clear he did not want legislative oversight.

 

The governor removed at least 15 portions of state law passed by the legislature that provided legislative authority or provided oversight of the executive branch.

 

Remember your 4th grade civics class lessons about the delicate balance of powers between the three branches of government – the governor (and executive agencies,), the legislature, and the judiciary. The power of the people lies in the power of their elected officials. The peoples’ representatives are their most direct line of power. When legislative power is undermined, so is the power of the people.

 

The governor began the budget process by taking away powers given to the people and the legislature. For example, the citizen board members of the Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture lost all their policy-making powers in the governor’s budget. The legislature lost its oversight of state building projects in the governor’s changes to the Building Commission. The people lost budget restrictions in the governor’s gutting of the cost-benefit analysis requirements. These powers were all restored in action by the legislature.

 

However, through his vetoes, the governor again limited the power of the people through their legislature. For example, the legislature held onto funds the governor put in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) budget. The very troubled jobs agency was to submit policy changes to the legislature. Presumably, those funds could be released funds if the budget writing committee members were satisfied progress was made. The governor took the funds set aside by the budget committee through his veto pen.

 

The budget writing committee made changes in the requirements for agencies writing budgets – requiring more information be sent to the legislature on budget options. Lawmakers also set executive restrictions on short-term debt. The use of this type of debt (known as ‘commercial paper’) has long been unrestricted by lawmakers and invisible to the public.

 

The governor vetoed both of these common sense budget oversight provisions.

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