Budget sleight of hand, under the radar
Rep. Kevin Petersen (R-Waupaca, 40th Assembly District) nails it. Some of this is detailed stuff, but worth digging in to.
Unbelievably, in a mere 48 hours from introduction on February 16th to passage on February 18th, Wisconsin’s Legislative Democrats, with not one Republican vote in the Assembly or the Senate, passed a $1.2 billion tax increasing budget repair bill. The 389 page document received no public hearing for debate. Nor did it get vetted through the main stream media.Here's the important part of Rep. Petersen's explanation:
One day later, with the stroke of his pen, Governor Doyle signed the bill into law, imposing a myriad of new taxes on Wisconsin businesses and families. Even more preposterous is the manner in which Democrats changed laws to avoid breaking laws.
According to a report released on February 16th by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the ending balance in the state’s general fund for the 2008-09 fiscal year is projected to be -$600.2 million. The report further states that the budget repair bill would reduce that deficit by $183.3 million to a -$416.9 million balance.
A closer examination of the numbers shows that of the $1.2 billion in new taxes, $312 million will be collected between now and the end of the fiscal year (June 30th). Of the $312 million collected, only $183.3 million will be used to close the shortfall. The governor is using the other $128.7 million to increase spending appropriations not in his original budget bill.
The question becomes, how can the state pay all of its bills by the end of the fiscal year if it is projected to be $416.9 million dollars in the red? Theanswer is found in the first two lines of the actual bill: "“An Act relating to: state finances and appropriations and making diverse other changes in the statutes.”"
[Currently]... state law does not allow legislators to spend more money than is collected in revenue. Additionally, at the end of the two year biennium, the state needs to maintain a rainy day fund of $65 million for emergency purposes.
Remember these seven words from above: “"... and making diverse other changes in the statutes?”"Can you believe that? Ok... continuing on...
Printed in the 389 pages of text are two obscure lines reading: “…the current law general fund structural balance requirement would not apply to 2008-09.” and “…the general fund balance requirement of $65 million for 2008-09 would not apply in 2008-09.”
For the purpose of this budget repair bill, the law preventing the general fund reserve from being depleted below $65 million dollars, and the law preventing the state from spending more money than it collects in revenue, were both overridden. Thus, Wisconsin will pretend its bills are paid through the end of the year and roll the $416.9 million deficit into next year’s already projected $5.7 billion deficit.Jo Egelhoff, FoxPolitics.net
Now that Governor Doyle has made these changes under the radar, he is continuing to rewrite legislation with his fiscal year 2009 –- 2011 budget proposal. The budget was introduced on February 17th, in the middle of the 48 hour budget repair bill push to passage. The proposed budget includes eliminating a cost saving provision just written into law January 2006.
2005 Wisconsin Act 89 requires a cost analysis be used to determine if it is less expensive to use state employees for any contract larger than $25,000. The original law was signed after a number of newspaper reports showed that the Doyle administration was contracting out a number of troubled projects that could have been done by state employees for less money.
In an attempt to defend his decision to negate this legislation, Governor Doyle stated “It adds a further level of bureaucracy,” and questions the financial value of the oversight measure.
Increasing state spending appropriations and paying more than necessary for contract work performed will not help Wisconsin families and businesses during this economic downturn. But it does prove law is not important when it gets in the way of the Governor and legislative Democrats raising taxes and paying off their political special interests.