Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Downplaying and Dramatizing the State Budget

It looks like a budget will be passed today. Estimates are that at least 10-12 of the 52 GOP members of the Assembly will vote for it, which should be more than enough for it to pass, even though it wouldn't surprise me to see Dem Reps. Ziegelbauer and Wasserman vote against it.

In an email to rally the troops, Speaker Huebsch notes the following (emphasis mine):
The [LFB] memo shows that the bipartisan budget agreement increases all funds appropriations 6.6% over the biennium. GPR appropriations increase 6.0%. The increase is not 8%, which has been claimed by the governor and reported in the media.

As a point of reference, the US Department of Commerce recently announced that Wisconsin's per capita personal income grew at 4.6% in 2006. With the growth in all funds spending averaging 3.3% annually, the bipartisan budget agreement appropriates almost 1.3% per year below personal income growth and lives within the taxpayers' means.
Interesting admission considering GOPers typically prefer using inflation as the benchmark for determining "taxpayers' means." According to my math, this new standard of personal income growth means that Doyle's initial budget -- which called for an 8.5 percent increase over the biennium -- also would be within "taxpayers' means."

Who'd of thought that's how Huebsch felt all these months?

Also interesting is the budget coverage in the Journal Sentinel, which cranks up the drama dial in an article on "surprise" fees that made their way into the final budget agreement. Of course, if some consideration was given to services in the article -- a radical thought, to be sure -- the inclusion of the new fee increases might not be such a surprise.

As the JS editorial board astutely noted over the weekend regarding the budget agreement, "questions remain, including how the state will pay for transportation projects that even many Republicans agree are crucial to economic development...."

Ending the automatic gas tax increase last year and axing the oil tax from the budget left a hole in the transportation fund. Fees were a natural place to look to fill it considering how they allow Huebsch & Co. to hide behind the argument that fees go to support "specific services," regardless of the fact that it's a bit of a stretch to claim the actual cost to title a car will truly increase by 86 percent in the coming biennium.

It's beyond me why Huebsch can't just own up to the fact that money is needed for the transportation fund and, call it taxes or call it fees, it's gotta come from somewhere if you want the services.

And while the JS was happy to rile up readers about "surprise" fees on the front page of the main section, those who turned to the front page of the Metro section were treated to an article on how the budget shortchanges local governments, which puts police and fire services at risk.

Is it really too much to ask that the concept of funding and services get put together in the same article on the budget?

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3 Comments:

Anonymous m.z. forrest said...

Zigelbauer has a statement in the Manit. Herald Times Reporter saying that he would be voting against the bill.

October 23, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks, M.Z. That doesn't surprise me too much. I bet Wasserman will vote against it, too; the right will say that has everything to do with appearing fiscally conservative for his upcoming race against Darling, but I think it has more to do with the patient fund transfer (he gets a lot of financial backing from his fellow docs).

October 23, 2007  
Anonymous m.z. forrest said...

No problem. I don't know anything on the other fellow. Here is the story on Zig.

http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_action=doc&p_docid=11C777EE0DEF1BB0&p_docnum=2&p_theme=gannett&s_site=heraldtimes&p_product=MHRB

October 23, 2007  

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