Friday, June 01, 2007

The Relevant Question: What Do You Want to Cut?

I don't want to get into whether or not the proposed oil assessment would be passed on to consumers. It's certainly an important question to consider before passing a budget with the provision included, and already a number of attorneys have weighed in on the issue with far more insight than I could provide here.

But it's also important to consider another question if the decision is made to not include the provision in the budget: What should be cut to allow it to be removed?

The oil assessment is scheduled to bring in about $272 million over the biennium. All of the revenue is slated for the transportation fund.

When Republicans on the JFC proposed deleting the oil assessment yesterday, they included a few other additions and subtractions that would've led to a net decrease in $160 million in revenue over the biennium.

As Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) pointed out, the JFC has already added $50 million in GPR spending to the governor's budget over the course of its deliberations, yet the GOP side of the table was now proposing to simply eliminate $160 in revenue from that budget. So where are these cuts going to be made on the services side?

Rep. Kitty Rhoades (R-Hudson) offered a campaign trail type non-response, claiming that Pocan's comments highlighted a basic philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats. As she sees it, Dems want to spend more, and Republicans want to spend less.

It's a bit of a curious defense to merely say your side is about spending less considering that Pocan was specifically asking where the GOP intended to spend less.

As I wrote back in February: "[T]he easy part where the GOP gets to talk only about what revenue it doesn't want to raise will eventually come to an end. Soon it'll need to start talking about what programs it wants to cut."

But the response by Rhoades suggests that in all the time the GOP spent hammering Doyle's budget over the course of the spring, it still hasn't figured out exactly how it plans to live up to its uncompromising talk on cutting revenue.



Anonymous m.z. forrest said...

I'll bite. Let's cut the road building fund, preferably let's eliminate it.

I suppose you are going to tell me that I should pick something that has a remote chance of occuring. :-)

One could just has the gas tax by the same amount. My understanding is that this will achieve the same goal.

June 01, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Actually, the question was directed at state legislators. I appreciate that anyone can toss up a few ideas of what they wouldn't personally mind seeing cut, but I'm really hoping for a response (not on this blog, of course -- my ego isn't that big) from people who have the ability to formally propose policies and who, even more importantly, are accountable for the policies they propose (accountable, that is, to a constituency that spans beyond just themselves).

June 01, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

I'm kinda interested in the responses, too.

But for expediency, I'll go along with MZ: cut it out of planned DOT spending--and new buildings for the UW-system.

June 01, 2007  
Blogger John Foust said...

"What would you like to cut?" is the right question to ask whenever anyone suggests that taxes must be lowered. Saying you want to pay less tells us nothing. It takes insight, wisdom and guts to suggest specific cuts - which is exactly why those who chant "Lower taxes" are only whiners. Give me specifics, give me principles that can help guide us to lower taxes and less spending. Show me what's pork and what's not.

June 01, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I agree, John. And I'd add that including specifics also allows the public to have a complete understanding of what's being proposed, which leads to the ability to have a truly complete debate on the topic. If you ask just about anyone if they want to pay less in taxes, they'll likely say "yes" without even needing to give it much thought. The reverse, of course, is also true -- offer someone additional services without considering cost, and the answer is probably going to be "yes."

But real life public policy doesn't work like that. Services and financing need to be considered together, not in lieu of each other.

June 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm for cutting new road-building, too. I've been in the Tommy part of the state, the western part, where there are eight-lane roads with no one on them. . . .

But I'd keep in a certain number of new UW buildings -- certainly for a new UWM branch campuses. I think that the downtown school of public health will not need new buildings.

But I think there is going to be need at the county grounds for the school of engineering. This would be startup funidng that not only will allow UWM continue to grow (it simply can't cause any more congestion at the east side campus, and the engineering building there really is way behind the times for that use) but will pay back in research and development that will mean more business and more jobs.

If other UW campuses can argue for such needs that will pay back, those can be handled case by case. It is imperative to fund education here, beyond tuition, as the most significant cause for increasing incomes -- and thus for improving our state economy, especially in the Milwaukee area that has a third of the state population.

And the roads already are built to take students there, whether downtown or to the county grounds.

June 01, 2007  

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