Over the years, both parties have included spending for “location-specific” projects (aka earmarks or pork) in the state budget. Some say this helps vulnerable legislators get reelected or helps ensure a particular legislator votes for the budget. Earmarks typically cost a few million dollars in a budget.
This budget had to address an unprecedented budget deficit of over $6 billion, by raising taxes and fees by $2 billion, cutting programs, and using federal 'stimulus' funds. To gauge opinion on earmarks in this context, I invited people throughout the region to respond to an online poll question about whether earmarks are a good idea given our budget trouble. An overwhelming majority of 94% said earmarks are inappropriate at this time. I supported an amendment to remove all budget earmarks.
The budget bill passed with dozens of earmarks intact. Total earmark spending is just more than $30,000,000. All of the following are examples of budget earmarks approved in the final budget bill:
$500,000 to help renovate the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh
- $100,000 for a stone barn built in 1903 in the Town of Chase in Oconto County
- $125,000 grant to remodel the L.E. Phillips Library in the city of Eau Claire
- $50,000 grant to install playground equipment in Preservation Park on the Rock River in Beloit
SEE THE MOST CURRENT LIST OF EARMARKS APPROVED BY THE LEGISLATURE (PDF)