|style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Let’s Look at the State Budget
By State Senator Glenn Grothman
July 18, 2007
The Wisconsin Legislature has been working on the state budget for four months now and the vision between the Democratically-controlled State Senate and the Republican-controlled State Assembly is rather stark. I had assumed that since we started the budget with an over $1 ¼ billion deficit that both sides would be frugal compared to the past. At a minimum, the state could take a two-year breather from any new spending programs and just try to get out of debt. Most of the focus has been on the massive new healthcare program proposed by Senate Democrats. However, even Governor Doyle will not support this plan stating that he lives in the real world, and therefore, I assume the plan is dead. Let’s look at some other differences.
Forty-four percent of state spending from our general fund (largely income and sales taxes) goes to K-12 education. Under current law, school districts spend $252 more per child each year and the state picks up two-thirds of this cost. Senate Democrats have decided to add a new $10 million a year appropriation for Milwaukee Public Schools above their regular increase. It is a myth that Milwaukee Public Schools do not have money they are currently spending $2,000 a year more per child than the West Bend schools and are also over the state average. Democrats are also taking this opportunity to add a new $2 million appropriation to bilingual education, more money to reduce class sizes to 15 children in early grades, $12 million more a year for rural schools, and $3 million a year to encourage more 4-year-old kindergarten. Sadly, the Republicans, feeling they had to have some new program decided to add $5 million a year more for school safety.
Currently, the state spends $10 million per year telling people not to smoke. Senate Democrats want to increase this to $30 million a year!!!! Wisconsin already spends well above Illinois and Michigan and is about even with Indiana and Iowa. Despite our high level of funding, our smoking has decreased less the last four years than similarly-situated states. This massive increase would make us easily the highest spending state in the area for ads telling us to stop smoking. To me it is just money for bureaucrats for anti-smoking agencies.
The University is also getting 11 new buildings in this budget six of which are new dormitories. There are currently approximately 76,258 seniors in Wisconsin’s high schools and fewer than 60,000 fourth graders. The UW knows full well the number of students going to college will drop in a few years. I think it takes a lot of nerve for the UW even to request new dorms much less for members of the Legislature to support them.
The Senate Democrats are also proposing over $18 million a year in new need-based funding for the UW, tech schools, and private university students. This is in addition to a commitment to provide free college as part of the infamous Wisconsin Covenant program. Also at the University, the Democrats are trying to give in-state tuition to illegal aliens. Under the University’s diversity program, it will also be easier for illegals to get in than your own children.
There are also the usual pork projects including a new Civil War Museum in Kenosha, $2 million for a Hmong cultural center, and new district attorneys and judges in districts of both Republican and Democrat legislators.
In a relatively inexpensive but dangerous change, the Democrats want to remove the requirement that able-bodied individuals must try to get a job in order to receive food stamps. This would make Wisconsin the only state -- other than South Carolina -- to do this. We still haven’t gotten over being a welfare magnet throughout the 1970s and 1980s -- here we go again.
In an unpublicized provision, the Democrats are changing current law to make it more difficult and more costly to fire bad policemen and firemen. Of course in the private sector most people can be let go on a day’s notice without cause. The Senate Democrats are making it less expensive to fire a bad policeman in Milwaukee. Why would the Democrats want to make it more expensive to fire a bad policeman or bad firemen everywhere else? The Milwaukee police don’t support the Democrats in the elections.
The press will focus on the tax increases and the healthcare plan as a budget compromise is worked out over the next few months. I hope they also focus on these other provisions as they will have a big effect on the cost and efficiency of your government.