STATE STIMULUS PACKAGE A BUDGET GIMMICK THAT WON’T WORK
A legislative column by state Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin)
The state Legislature committed the same colossal error Congress made with the federal stimulus. Legislators were swept into the same rush to act as our representatives in Washington.
There was little, if any light of day shed on a massive budget repair proposal that was approved by the state Senate and Assembly and signed into law. The taxpaying public and the news media did not have the proper time to review the nearly 400-page bill legislators suddenly had dumped on their calendars. The package increases business taxes by $215 million over the next three years, imposes a hospital tax, and taxes Internet sales.
For many legislators, the prospect of all this money from Washington is a God-send. They can tell their constituents that the funding will be used to save education and health care and roads. Goodness knows there is a lot of money. According to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Wisconsin will likely receive more than $3 billion. More than $2 billion of the $3 billion will go to education and medical assistance.
What happens, though, when this one-time money, and it is important to note that this is one-time money, dries up? What happens when it is all gone and our needs and wants continue? Using it to prop up our budget would be like using lottery winnings. Once the winnings run out, the expenses remain and we simply face the same problem in two years, only without the same one-time money.
The general public’s support of big bailouts and huge stimulus packages has been on the decline. Citizens understand that with huge stimulus packages, we are merely buying bigger and more serious fiscal problems down the road. Deficits won’t go down. Debt won’t disappear. In the not too distant future when our fiscal crisis has not been solved, we will wonder what went wrong. We can simply point to the budget repair package the state enacted that is not a cure-all, and just a short-term, feel-good fix for some.
In one day the enormous bill was rammed through the Legislature, marking the only chance most legislators would have to vote on anything marginally related to the billions of federal stimulus dollars Wisconsin is expecting. We should be using this "stimulus" to make it easier for businesses to do business, to make Wisconsin a more profitable place to be. That is what spurs economic growth and creates jobs.
If anything, this bill does the opposite. This bill makes it harder to do business in Wisconsin. Business is the horse that pulls the cart.
I understand that my colleagues want to protect government programs. However, they should keep in mind that the money for those programs starts with business. Business provides every cent that any of us, government included, spend. When you make conditions more difficult for business, you run the high risk of losing business. That means less money for workers, consumers, and less incoming revenue for government.
If the state isn’t going to actually try to stimulate the economy with this "stimulus" bill, the state must not fall into the trap of using whatever federal stimulus money it receives to prop up existing spending. With so much money coming into the state, we must resist the great temptation to spend it on pet programs and agencies. Our budget situation means difficult days ahead. We must not use the stimulus money to offset our current budget problems.
Wisconsin must fix its budget problems the way we have been promising the people of Wisconsin we’d fix them: the right way, without gimmicks.
If you have comments on this or any other issue, please contact me at email@example.com, www.SenatorLazich.com <http://www.senatorlazich.com/>, Senator Mary Lazich, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882 Madison, WI 53707 or 1-800-334-1442.