Rahmlow: Doyle and Dems want to get busy
“I’m not looking for it”, was Jim Doyle’s response to reporters asking if he would join the administration of Barack Obama.
For weeks this columnist assumed that meant Doyle was either unhappy he would not be offered Attorney General, or that he expected the legislature to change parties giving the governor an opportunity to leave his mark on state politics. As it turns out, the latter seems more plausible. “I think we can have a really great Legislature that is focused on the real needs of the people,” Doyle said this week.
Former Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) rightly deserved to lose his position after “safe” Republican districts AD 57 and AD 2 went to liberal Democrats. From ignoring calls within his own ranks to enact the Kanavas-Vos income and capital gains tax cuts to going along with Jim Doyle’s deeply flawed budget proposal, Huebsch missed many opportunities to position his party in a turbulent election year.
The three Milwaukee Democrats vying for Speaker, however, will end up being bigger disasters. The frontrunners for the job have to be State Reps. Fred Kessler or Jon Richards. In March, Richards introduced Assembly Joint Resolution 118, a proposal to increase taxes and move families into a government-run health care program. He also sponsored AB 834 that will ban smoking in Wisconsin.
Kessler introduced several measures last session that included urging the federal government to pass a Constitutional Amendment on campaign finance. He also sponsored proposals to establish a state board to redraw legislative maps and encouraged the state Investment Board to cease investing in Sudanese businesses. And Milwaukee school-choice advocates have fought long and hard against Kessler’s attempts to roll back reforms.
In both men the governor will find an immediate ally, although Richard’s policy items more closely match Doyle’s agenda. Voters will quickly realize this is not the change they were looking for in Madison. Media-types have been writing stories downplaying the Democratic agenda saying budget constraints will hamper the ability of liberals to spend more money.
Unfortunately, that assertion does not hold up under scrutiny. Wisconsin has been running deficits every budget cycle for the past eight years. Today state government is spending $10 billion more on government programs than it did at the beginning of Doyle’s first term. And there is no reason to believe the incumbent governor will propose less spending in the coming biennium.
Doyle even expressed his desire this week to finally implement stalled parts of his agenda. Those agenda items include domestic partner benefits for public employees, a hospital tax that will be passed onto patients, an oil windfall tax that will be felt by consumers, mandating autism coverage which will drive up insurance costs, publicly fund Supreme Court elections, and eliminate the QEO.
It is on that last point that Doyle hopes to score his largest victory. WEAC, Doyle’s biggest cheerleader, has been lobbying the governor for a long time on that policy item. “The removal of this provision is a further example of this Legislature's lack of support for the dedicated individuals who teach our children. I remain steadfast in my commitment to end the unfair treatment of teachers and will continue to seek a repeal of this unnecessary law,” Doyle said in 2003.
This radical agenda will be enacted over the objections of Republicans, completely helpless to stop or slow these proposals.
Rahmlow is a former field director for Tim Michels 2004 U.S. Senate campaign and briefly served as Terri McCormick’s Congressional campaign manager in 2006.