Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why the TABOR Family Failed

Now that the TABOR family is poised to be sunk today by the state Senate, the far fiscal right is searching desperately for reasons why.

The early answers were problems with leadership. If only someone could've championed the amendment like it deserved to be championed. As Charlie Sykes lamented earlier this week: "TPA died as a result of a lack of leadership, will, and principle."

Apparently the stumping around the state by GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Green over the past month didn't provide enough steam. Even though it was Sykes who predicted the stumping by Green would provide just the right amount of umphh to push the amendment straight through the state legislature.

And it's not as if the Assembly leadership didn't try to get the amendment through. How can we forget the three straight days spent in caucus last week by the GOP Assembly? You know you're working hard when you finally pass an amendment to the state constitution at 4:37 am.

Wanting to find someone else to blame, without necessarily casting the leadership excuse aside (it's still good ammo for recall elections), Sykes and others have come up with a new explanation for why the amendment failed. It was those selfish lobbyists.

Sykes tells readers in a column appearing in CNI newspapers around the Milwaukee area: "Last week, those lobbyists swarmed the Capitol in record numbers – more than a hundred special interest groups descended on legislators, most of them trying to kill an amendment that would have limited their access to the public trough."

Among those greedy groups was the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the Wisconsin Coalition of Churches, the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, the League of Women Voters, and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. A self-interested bunch, indeed.

But there are a few lobbyists Sykes doesn't want to discuss.

At the top of the list is the biggest spending special interest group in the state -- Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC). WMC and the well-funded national conservative lobby group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) started running advocacy ads for the amendment less than a week after its announcement three months ago.

And who can forget when AFP brought Colorado economist Barry Poulson to Madison to speak at the first invitation-only public hearing on the amendment. When asked by a legislator at the hearing how much AFP was paying him to provide his expert testimony on the fiscal situation in Wisconsin, Poulson decided it was best not to respond.

Even more recently the conservative shadow group Coalition for American Families began running a radio spot for the amendment across the state. It's the first we've heard from the Middleton-based group since the last time families in America faced a serious issue. Of course, I'm talking about blowing the cap off the school voucher program in Milwaukee.

What these groups, and a few others, lack in numbers, they more than make up for in funding and, subsequently, ties to legislators.

And Republicans happen to control the state legislature. Yet the preferred amendment of the far fiscal right still couldn't make it through even one of the houses. The original amendment -- the one proponents actually wanted -- was rejected by the Assembly in a lopsided 66-32 vote.

That means nearly one-half of the Assembly GOP caucus shot down the amendment preferred by the far fiscal right after three days straight of trying to be convinced they should vote for it.

That's not a result of lacking leadership or lobbying by the other side. That's a result of the majority of the state not being on board with taking the extreme measure of writing broad, restrictive fiscal policy into the state constitution.

The failure of the TABOR family was ideological all the way.

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