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 Journal Sentinel staff has assembled its overview of some of the key issues that will be decided by the Joint Finance Committee in Madison as the "budget" process goes forward over the next days and weeks. One of the things that should jump out at us all is just how much of the budget deals with things that aren't budget items, but instead with things that the Governor chooses to hide where they'll not be subject to debate on a free-standing basis.
Another of the things that should be top of mind is that the Joint Finance Committee, comprised today of 12 Democrats and 4 Republicans, makes decisions that are then given an up or down vote, in almost every instance, by the Assembly and the Senate. This passes for democracy in action in Wisconsin. We need to be ever-mindful that elections have consequences.
Among the issues are these:
Smoking Ban: Thought likely to pass in spite of strong opposition from the Tavern League; this will include all public places including smoking lounges and cigar stores. A legal product is being restricted thus usurping the rights of property owners and businesses. This is a classic slippery slope since it becomes more and more difficult to determine when enough government intervention in our daily lives is enough.
Tax Increases: These taxes and fee increases amounting to some $1.7 billion in the next two years will almost certainly be enacted. The only tax increase that might not survive the cut is the disingenuous tax on "big oil" that will ultimately be paid by you and me.
Property Tax Increases: Localities are felt to be likely to pass property tax increase of at least 3.2% as communities struggle to deal with the same issues being felt at the state level. Remember that the state compels various things of the local governments without providing any financial assistance.
Early Release of Inmates: Governor Doyle is seeking approval to release prison inmates before they would normally be released so that he can reduce the budgets for prisons This is felt to be likely to pass the Joint Finance Committee.
Regional Transit Authorities: Governor Doyle is pushing rail transportation and has asked for RTAs to be created in Southeast Wisconsin, the Fox Valley and Dane County and to give these RTAs the right to increase sales taxes to pay for themselves. This is felt to be uncertain at the moment.
Auto Insurance Increases: Governor Doyle has asked for the minimum automobile insurance coverage to be increased that will enable the trial attorneys to reap more rewards from juries. This would significantly increase the cost of auto insurance in Wisconsin. The prospects for this provision are also felt to be uncertain.
Same-Sex Registries: The Joint Finance Committee must decide if the Governor's requests for same-sex partners to receive state health insurance coverage and to determine if same-sex couples should be permitted to register with county clerks so as to qualify for numerous legal benefits that are now reserved for heterosexual couples. This is felt to be certain to pass.
Each of these issues should warrant full and open debate in our representative democracy, but they don't according to the Governor. Had he really believed that, he would not have included all these things in a "budget" package.