My column for the West Bend Daily News is out. It’s a look ahead past the election.
Assembly GOP releases its agenda
The Wisconsin Assembly Republicans, confident that they will retain firm control of the chamber, have released their “Forward for Wisconsin’s Future” agenda. It is an impressive list of initiatives that builds on earlier successes while also introducing some new ideas. Should the Republicans retain control of the state Senate and the governor’s chair, there is good reason that many of these proposals will make it into law.
Overall, the Assembly Republicans are committing to holding the growth of government to match projected personal income growth. It is disappointing that the goal is not actually reducing the size of state government, but it is a laudable move in the right direction. Some of the specifics in the plan are very intriguing.
While vowing to continue their trimming of government regulations, the plan also proposes to “future-proof” those regulations by writing administrative rules with an automatic sunset. This would force proactive action by future legislatures to renew regulations or they would expire. This would also have the added benefit of limiting the overall number of regulations since the Legislature can only review so many regulations each year.
In light of the recent biased action of the Government Accountability Board and a federal court ruling that the GAB has exceeded its authority and infringed on individual rights, the Assembly Republicans plan to reconstitute the GAB. This is a critical need to ensure an equal footing for all participants in the political process. This would mark the second time in a decade that the body that oversees elections has needed reform. This time around, the Legislature should cease trying to find the nonexistent “nonpartisan” mantle and instead build an adversarial process that allows for a vigorous vetting of controversial issues.
It is a relatively small thing, but the Assembly Republican’s plan also calls for providing funds for free GED exams. GED courses are already free, but the exams are not. This small item will remove one more barrier to education that is critical for people to move up the economic ladder.
A much larger proposal regarding education is the one to continue the tuition freeze for students who attend the University of Wisconsin System. This has already saved college students and their families millions of dollars. Coupled with this proposal is one to reform state schools to allow greater financial transparency and to refocus the state schools on the identified needs of Wisconsin’s economy.
The Assembly Republicans’ plan also proposes a list of measures designed to reduce fraud in the state’s welfare system to make sure that resources are only going to the people who need it. These measures include things like putting photo identification on EBT cards and limiting the number of times that a person can get a replacement card. More controversial is the proposal to require that welfare recipients undergo drug testing. It is perfectly reasonable and responsible to ensure that taxpayer money is not being spent to subsidize someone’s drug habit, but liberals take great offense at the notion.
Perhaps the heaviest lifting for the Assembly will be to find a way to stabilize the transportation fund. The plan states a goal of doing this, but fails to offer suggestions. This is a reflection of just how difficult this task will be. Watch for all sorts of goofy transportation options to be floated and for nobody to be happy with the result.
The Assembly Republicans’ plan continues on with all kinds of positive and meaningful initiatives that will improve Wisconsin. From cyber security to helping modernize the dairy industry to charitable deductions to work plans for inmates to self-employment training programs, the Assembly Republicans appear ready to get down to some serious business once the election is in the rear-view mirror. If Wisconsin sees fit to return Republicans to control in the senate and re-elect Gov. Scott Walker, the next legislative session might be almost as consequential to Wisconsin’s future as the 2011 session.
(Owen Robinson’s column runs Tuesdays in the Daily News.)