The first salvo in Wisconsin’s biennial budget process has been delivered. Gov. Tony Evers has delivered his budget proposal to the Legislature and it is a hot mess of liberal vengeance against the previous eight years. If our state’s budget were not so important to so many people, one would be inclined to think that Governor Evers is trying to play a joke on the people of Wisconsin.
When Evers began to draft his budget proposal, there were two paths before him. One path was the one of compromise. Knowing that he defeated Scott Walker by fewer than 30,000 votes and that the same electorate had sent even stronger Republican majorities to the Legislature, Evers could have taken the path of reasonable compromise that had a high probability of moving legislation in favor of his goals. Indeed, the Republican leaders in the Legislature had been sending strong signals that they were willing to compromise on a number of issues including education funding, transportation spending, criminal justice reform, and several other issues that Evers highlighted during the campaign.
The second path before Evers was one of inflexible fealty to the radical liberal base that elected him. He could write a budget that amounted to a liberal manifesto that tossed vegan faux meat to every liberal interest group in his batty base. Evers chose the second path. His choice to advance a statement of political doctrine instead of a serious budget proposal has forced the legislative Republicans to toss Evers’ proposal in the recycling bin and start from scratch.
While Evers’ budget proposal fails to measure up as something to be evaluated as serious legislation, it does offer Wisconsinites a view of the Wisconsin Evers and the Democrats would create if the voters were foolish enough to give them control of government.
In Evers’ Wisconsin, we would all pay more taxes. Wisconsin’s manufacturers would pay higher taxes forcing them to cut costs elsewhere or move to a more friendly state. Wisconsinites would pay higher taxes on capital gains — a particular burden for entrepreneurs and investors in Wisconsin businesses. Wisconsinites would also may higher gas taxes to feed the transportation lobby and higher property taxes to shovel into government schools. While he does not yet raise income or sales taxes, Wisconsin would run a massive structural deficit that would have to eventually be fixed.
In Evers’ Wisconsin, all of those tax increases would go to fuel a massive increase in spending. Evers would spend more on government K-12 schools without bothering to insist on better results for the taxpayers’ largesse. The University of Wisconsin System would get an injection of taxpayer funds, as would transportation, Medicaid, the Department of Natural Resources, the juvenile justice system, and many other areas. In all, Evers’ Wisconsin would have 701 more government employees, for a total of 71,990 people, to poke and prod into every area of Wisconsinites’ lives. Evers’ Wisconsin would spend a whopping $1,300 more per person.
In Evers’ Wisconsin, work requirements for welfare recipients would be rolled back. In a state with full employment, people could still sit on the dole when there are jobs waiting to be filled. Wisconsin would be well on the path to legalizing marijuana despite the incredible social costs being paid by states that have already legalized it.
In Evers’ Wisconsin, illegal aliens would be given driver’s licenses and ID cards, making it easier for them to vote and prohibiting every other Wisconsinite from using their driver’s license for air travel because Wisconsin would no longer comply with the REAL ID Act.
In Evers’ Wisconsin, criminals would be given light sentences for their crimes because keeping them on the street is more important than protecting innocent Wisconsinites.
In Evers’ Wisconsin, the DNR and other regulators would be re-weaponized to make sure that no Wisconsinite or business dares to move a rock or drain a puddle without suffering the expensive and intrusive scrutiny of a government bureaucrat.
In Evers’ Wisconsin, our right-to-work law would be repealed, forcing workers to belong to unions when they do not want to be. This violates their right to freely associate and automatically takes Wisconsin off of the list of states that some businesses will consider to locate.
Frankly, Evers’ Wisconsin sounds terrible. It is not a state that makes it easier, more enjoyable, or more affordable to live, work, or play. Thankfully, we do not live in Evers’ Wisconsin. In our republican and divided form of government, Governor Evers is still one man whose barmy ideas can be ignored by the adults in the room.
The Republican legislators are right to start fresh and craft their own budget. Evers has already shown that he is unwilling to compromise when he vetoed the middleclass tax cut that the legislature passed last month. As long as his sole governing principle remains appeasing Wisconsinites fringe liberals, it is probable that he will veto all or most of a budget proposed by the Republican Legislature.
The good news is that Wisconsin’s state government will not shut down if a new budget is not enacted. The old budget will continue to fund Wisconsin’s government perpetually. The Republicans have the strongest hand if they are willing to play it. They win by simply doing nothing.
If there was any hope that Governor Evers would seek middle ground from which to lead an ideologically diverse state, his budget proposal has shattered that hope.
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