May 15, 2009
Taxpayers Deserve More, Not Less
New revenue projections in Wisconsin show a growing budget shortfall, now approaching $7 billion. This budget shortfall figure represents the amount of money the state provides in total aids for K-12 education and our public universities in one year COMBINED. About half of the states’ budget goes to education, by far the largest appropriation item in the budget. While Wisconsin is not going to shut down our schools for a year to make ends meet, it helps put perspective on the budget challenges ahead.
Given our challenges, many would hope that the Governor and Democratic leaders would be seeking to stretch our taxpayer dollar to go further. Unfortunately, many of the budget proposals in the Governor’s budget bill would do the exact opposite €“ making government services more expensive.
A glaring example is proposed changes to Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws. Governor Doyle is proposing to subject any project of $2,000 or more to comply with prevailing wage regulations. Volunteer projects with local government help would be a thing of the past. Costs for all municipal projects would grow by as much as 10-20%. Rural communities would be especially hit hard, as they would be subjected to paying much higher wages as seen in urban areas. Simply put, local projects would either be fewer €“ resulting in job losses - or more expensive €“ resulting in higher property taxes.
Additionally, the Governor proposed to eliminate cost analysis for state contracts. This issue gained much attention after the Legislature demanded accountability of contracts in 2005. In fact, just this week an audit of contracts with state road builders found that many tasks could be done for less with state employees rather than private contractors. Yet, the Governor has sought to eliminate review of such contracts in his budget bill proposal.
Finally, the budget proposal contains and the budget-writing committee has passed provisions that would enable up to 30 separate collective bargaining groups for our public universities and technical colleges. It would cost over $2 million alone to staff UW System with a team of negotiators. Collective bargaining for higher education would destroy shared governance at our campuses, wherein staff, students, and faculty work cooperatively to set campus policies. It could also result in disparities among staff and faculty pay plans at individual campuses. Smaller campuses like River Falls and Stout that do not hold the power of Madison and Milwaukee would likely lose in fighting for limited resources.
These changes do nothing to help the budget shortfall but instead increase government costs. We need a new direction that looks for how we can deliver services citizens expect at a price taxpayers can afford.
What do you think? Send me an email to Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov or call me at 1-800-862-1092.