Wednesday, May 16, 2007

JFC: What Are We Doing Here?

To provide a brief explanation of how the JFC is handling the budget, those items that were in the governor's budget when JFC talks started require a majority vote (at least nine) to be removed while those items that are not in the governor's budget when JFC talks started require a majority vote (again, at least nine) to be added.

Here's a list of items that were proposed to be added to the budget yesterday:
  • Reduce the per pupil adjustment for school districts to $100 (GOP)
  • Require 70 percent of school district operating expenditures to go to instructional activities (GOP)
  • Have the DPI reimburse state universities and colleges for Wisconsin high school graduates who need to take remedial coursework (GOP)
  • Eliminate the requirement that MPS teachers live within the City of Milwauke limits (GOP)
  • Gradually phase out the ability of sender school districts to count transferred students in membership for revenue limits or state aid purposes (GOP)
  • Increase funding for SAGE by $3 million over the governor's budget proposal (Dem)
  • Require the LAB to conduct an audit of the SAGE program (GOP)
  • Allow districts participating in SAGE to elect not to reduce class sizes in particular schools or grade levels and subsequently not receive aid for those areas (GOP)
  • Institute a pay-for-performance pilot program for teachers in select school districts (GOP)
  • Authorize $2.5 million to reimburse school districts for safety expenditures (GOP)
  • Cut the reimbursement rate for school breakfasts from 15 cents per breakfast to 10 cents per breakfast (GOP)
  • Eliminate the governor's proposal to increase funding for bilingual and bicultural education aid (GOP)
  • Cut $3 million from the governor's proposal for four year old kindergarten, along with proposals to cut funding for world language instruction, science, technology, engineering, and math education, and eliminating a new program for low income driver education at MPS (GOP)
  • Authorizing $50 million in bonding for school districts to install energy efficient and renewable energy systems (Dem)
  • Allocate $250,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Milwaukee and $950,000 for 21st century community learning centers in MPS (Dem)
  • Provide $21 million in funding for districts with at least 50 percent of the school population eligible for free or reduced lunches (Dem)
  • Drop the school voucher program cap back to 15,000 (Dem)
  • Continue the requirement that the City of Milwaukee pay more for voucher students than MPS students (GOP)
All of these items failed to make it into the budget. Most of them failed on an 8-8 vote, although there was some crossover to defeat a few of the motions.

And aside from a few relatively minor additions of funding for school district consolidation studies and library aids, along with the removal of the Milwaukee residential charter school plan, the governor's budget ended the day in the same form that it started the day.

So, JFC members, what exactly are you doing? What's with all of these motions that you know are going to fail?

Are you just looking for some press? I'm pretty sure you're not getting it. Except for a handful of reporters and a few of us who faithfully follow the WisPolitics Budget Blog (which is excellent, by the way), no one's really paying much attention. The papers may touch on the big stuff, like school vouchers, but they're not going to cover all of the small (or petty) proposals that don't go anywhere.

I suppose you can get some good stuff to add to your campaign literature to demonstrate to contituents how you tried to get those stubborn [enter name of opposite party] to listen.

And don't get me wrong. I get a slight chuckle from seeing hopeless proposals like requiring 70 percent of school spending to go to instruction and dropping the school voucher cap back down to 15,000. I realize it's all just part of the dance.

But, seriously, can't we just save most of this for the conference committee?

I know the budget is the most important single piece of legislation coming up this session. It's not, however, the only important legislation. The more time that's spent spinning wheels on the budget, the less time that's left for the rest.

UPDATE: The Journal Sentinel has broke into the budget blogging business with a site called "Building the Budget." The entry of the JS will surely bring the merry-go-round described above to (roughly eight) more people than ever before. Wheee!

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Blogger Xoff said...

One thing both sides are doing is getting some roll call votes to be used against people in the next campaign -- or at least giving themselves the ability to say "I proposed ..."

Of course, votes on amendments on the Assembly or Senate floor, where another batch of sure losers will be introduced, serves the same purpose and gets a bigger list of naysayers.

May 16, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

That's what I figured, too. It's all a very sad commentary on our political world -- both legislatively and electorally.

May 16, 2007  

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