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We’ll soon feel impact of of governor's budget pen

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Rep. Andy Jorgensen
June 30, 2011

It was in 1839 when a famous playwright first proclaimed the pen mightier than the sword, but even today, I think those words ring true.


With one fail swoop of ink, you can impact the education of millions of children, the health of hundreds of thousands of people and the economic future of an entire state.


That is, of course, only if you’re the governor.


This past weekend, Gov. Scott Walker signed the state budget into law. You may not know this because he took that action behind closed doors at a business in Green Bay. But he did sign the bill—and made very few changes with his powerful veto authority.


Armed with a pen, Gov. Walker raised taxes on middle- and low-income families by $69.8 million and increased the amount we’ll pay in fees by $111.3 million. He slashed support for public K-12 education by $1.6 billion and for lifeline health care programs such as FamilyCare and BadgerCare by $500,000.


At the same time, with that same signature, Gov. Walker approved $2.3 billion in tax breaks to corporations—some of which don’t even operate in Wisconsin—and to the wealthiest among us.


In essence, Gov. Walker drew a deeper line between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” But that isn’t all he did.


Gov. Walker and the legislative Republicans who supported his plan also increased spending by $1.1 billion—with much of it going to transportation projects. They raided segregated state funds by $411 million. And they put off paying our state’s debts.


I don’t know about you, but when I’m charging bills to a credit card, I don’t consider it balancing my budget.


Still, that’s what Republicans are saying. They’re patting themselves on the back, for goodness’ sake. They’re saying we might have a surplus of money!


But saying you’re fixing a deficit doesn’t mean you’re actually doing it.


The cold, hard facts from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau are that this budget leaves $338 million on the state’s credit card—and in doing so, means Wisconsin taxpayers will be on the hook for an additional $89.9 million of interest.


It didn’t have to be this way. I helped bring forward three-dozen amendments to the floor that could have made the budget a better bill. These proposals ranged in scope from a big-picture proposal to fully fund education at current levels by freezing corporate tax breaks at current levels, to a small amendment that would’ve ensured Wisconsin would work to keep SeniorCare going past 2012. Unfortunately, partisanship seems to govern this budget debate—and all of the suggestions from my side of the aisle were rejected outright.


When the bill had been approved in both houses, Democrats sent letters to Gov. Walker, asking him to veto sections of the budget. We received no response—apparently, our signatures don’t mean much.


But Gov. Walker’s pen may just be mightier than a sword. Soon, Wisconsin will feel the impact.


Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, represents the 37th Assembly District, which covers parts of Jefferson and Dane counties. Readers can contact him at P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708; phone 1-888-534-0037; email rep.Jorgensen@legis.Wisconsin.gov.

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