cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The question for today in our 'debate' between candidates LaSage and Melchert is this:
What specific existing state programs can be cut to stop the ongoing issues of budget shortfalls?
LaSage: The reason that I am running for State Assembly is to return the Republican Party back to being the party that stands for smaller government. My philosophy of good government is one in which bureaucracy is reduced and local control is increased, which leads not only to a need for less tax revenue, but it returns control and ownership back to the local level, where the people that have first-hand experience with local needs reside. So while I understand that this office carries a great deal of responsibility, it is not power that I seek, but rather empowerment for our citizenry.
Further, my core belief is that budgetary shortfalls occur because the state fails to operate like a business. When examining a budget, a business looks at all programs that yield little value. For example, ethanol has been proven to be an ineffective product and thus state subsidies to encourage its production should be abolished. Gas blended with ethanol causes even more financial pain at the pump and reduces fuel economy. Furthermore, taxpayer funded incentives to produce ethanol leads to a government sponsored heightened demand for corn, which in turn contributes to higher prices at the grocery store. All of this for dubious positive environmental impact, as ethanol needs to be transported on trucks, which of course use gas.
Another item that needs to be addressed is wasteful pet pork project spending. One example of such spending in the state budget would be $250,000 for a Hmong cultural center in La Crosse. While I fully support and have worked for preserving cultural heritage in our community, this is simply absurd. With the state's budget over 1600 pages long, examples such as these abound.
If a deficit still exists after such review, a business would also tell each of its departments to put together proposals that cut spending across-the-board. Upon making this directive, bureaucratic administrators will say that taxpayers' most valued programs will need to be cut. When this demagoguery occurs, your assemblyman should call them out on it, telling them to go back to the drawing board and work harder.
In the midst of cash flow problems, a business would also look at the revenue side of the equation. Presidents ranging from Democrat John F. Kennedy to Republican Ronald Reagan understood that tax cuts for individuals and businesses spurs growth, creating jobs that in turn yield more tax revenue. What has worked at the federal level (when employed) should be implemented in Wisconsin. Thus, I support a lower gas tax, as well as individual and corporate income tax rate reductions.
Finally, rather than monolithically telling citizens every program I feel should be cut, I look forward to engaging in an ongoing dialogue with district residents who can share their experiences and frustrations with state government bureaucracy and excess spending. You can reach me on either my cell phone: (262) 573-6360, or via emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . By working together to put Wisconsin on the right track, our collective 24th district voice will be heard.
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Melchert: We need to seriously consider a spending freeze for the next biennium. A spending freeze would keep existing government offices and services in place, but would prohibit new spending. Rep. Pridemore states that "This budget could almost be balanced with an across the board spending freeze that would allow the level of expected revenue to catch up with spending without any of the tax increases that democrats are proposing." (http://donpridemore.com/BudgetTaxes/IsNoBudgettheBestBudget/tabid/70/Default.aspx) A spending freeze may be unpopular, but a $2.3 billion deficit is immoral.
In addition, the budget has grown so much that we need to re-examine every dollar of government spending. While Wisconsin is already under a form of "base budget review reporting", we need to introduce a more aggressive culture of spending restraint. Instead of simply justifying expenses, let's require agencies to rank their spending priorities. What expenses would each department cut if they only had 90% of their existing budget? Would we lose essential services or would the reduction even be noticed? Let's have a televised hearing on Wisconsin Eye as we justify to the state why we are going to spend each dollar of the $20 billion of your money. While Jack Welch was criticized for his cost-cutting, he took GE from a $14 billion market value in 1980 to $410 billion in 2004.
By re-evaluating every dollar of government spending and implementing a spending freeze, we can restore fiscal accountability.