Boots & Sabers

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0700, 29 Jun 21

The Legislature takes up the budget

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

This columnist has been following Wisconsin’s budget- making for over two decades and two things really stood out this time. First, there is no real spending restraint in Madison, but there is a marked difference between the parties.


The current Republican version of the state budget spends $87.5 billion over the biennium. That is a $6.05 billion, or 7.4%, spending increase over the previous budget of $81.5 billion. The previous budget was a 7.8% spending increase over the budget before that. Throughout that period, the Republicans had strong majorities in the Legislature.


By contrast, Governor Evers’ budget proposal would have spent $92.2 billion, or 12% more than the previous budget. It is safe to say that while both parties eschew the frugal mores of most Wisconsinites, the Republicans are slightly less extravagant.


On the other hand, Republicans do support real tax cuts while Democrats do not. In the current fiscal environment, the increase in spending in the state budget is bolstered by borrowing and the fact that tax collections are at record highs. To write that another way, the state government is taxing Wisconsinites more than ever. The Republican budget gives most, but not all, of those record tax collections back to the people who pay them. The Democrats just want to spend or redistribute the money.


The other aspect of this budget cycle that drew attention is how little actual negotiation took place between the Legislature and the executive. The fact that Governor Evers and Republican leaders do not have a working relationship has been evident for some time. In the previous budget cycle, there was at least some attempt at real discussion. This time, it was evident that Evers was unwilling to even pretend to negotiate. His method of negotiation is to wage rhetorical war through the media without ever picking up the phone.


0700, 29 June 2021


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