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State budget takes us down grim road

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Rep. Brett Davis
July 13, 2009

Although its authors praise the 2009-11 state budget as the answer to our economic woes, the budget does little to promote Wisconsin’s economic development and might actually lengthen our recession. In fact, a close look at figures provided by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shines a light on the grim road this budget takes us down.


The budget has been touted to force significant “cutbacks” to state government while protecting middle-class workers from tax increases. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the LFB, over the next two years the budget increases government spending by more than 6 percent and adds more than 100 new government jobs. No family or small business I’ve talked with is spending this much, and many people in the private sector are seeking work.


As a result of the spending increase, the budget raises taxes by more than $2 billion. It also eases property tax caps, creating a ticking time bomb for property tax increases set to explode over the next several years. The budget also increases taxes you’ll pay for cell and landline phones and garbage collection. It mandates higher auto insurance minimums, which might raise your insurance up to $300. Make no mistake; this budget is balanced on the backs of hard working middle-class families, seniors and small businesses.


Democrats and Republicans must share the blame for helping create our budget problems. However, given the worst economy in generations, the state had an opportunity to make fundamental reforms that could have strengthened our state for the future.


With the budget deal being cut in private, behind closed doors, not one of the 136 Assembly Republican amendments was approved, despite Democratic calls for a “bipartisan solution.” Instead of actually balancing the budget, it was crafted using many of the same old gimmicks that got us into this situation. This includes putting a record $3.58 billion in borrowing on the state’s credit card, leaving the next budget with a $2.2 billion deficit, and using billions of one-time federal bailout money. No lessons were learned, and an opportunity was missed to fix our budget.


So how do we make the changes necessary to rebuild Wisconsin? We start with a more efficient government and a louder voice for the taxpaying public.


Every family and small business is doing more with less, and our government should be no different. But instead of taking a hard look for efficiencies among Wisconsin’s 3,120 units of government, Democrats instead chose to tax and spend their way to a budget solution. In my view, simply spending more taxpayer money won’t solve our state’s economic or fiscal problems and won’t create the jobs we need.


I am convinced Wisconsin will see brighter days ahead, but only if taxpayers play a stronger role in the budget process. If state government ran its budget more like families and small businesses, we would be much further down the road to recovery. Unfortunately, for now, we’re headed down the wrong path.


Brett Davis, R-Oregon, represents Wisconsin’s 80th Assembly District. He can be reached at P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708; 1-888-534-0080 or at rep.davis@legis.Wisconsin.gov.

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