Unclear on the Concept, or What’s a Budget For?

Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) announced on Tuesday that majority Republicans “are debating whether to add repeal of the state’s prevailing wage laws to the 2013-15 budget. He said the move would not be aimed at limiting public scrutiny of Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 49 but because the measure’s fiscal impact may make the budget a better home for it.” (Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/prevailing-wage-repeal-may-be-tucked-into-state-budget/article_04555ca1-6565-5c59-8d22-a67a11eda3b4.html#ixzz3W9XUkIqJ)

The announcement came after the four public hearings on the budget, and as of this writing has not been published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

It is well past time for Rep. Hutton, and apparently other Republicans, to learn about the budget bill. The statutes governing the compilation of the budget are located in Chapter 16, Wis. Stats., and include Sec. 16.46 (Biennial budget, contents); sec. 16.461 (Biennial budget, summary of funds); sec. 16.465 (Budget stabilization fund reallocations); and sec. 16.47 (Budget bill). The legislature is currently dealing with the executive budget bill, described in pertinent part below.

16.47 Budget bill.
(1) Except as provided in s. 16.529 (2), the executive budget bill or bills shall incorporate the governor’s recommendations for appropriations for the succeeding biennium. The appropriation method shown in the bill or bills shall in no way affect the amount of detail or manner of presentation which may be requested by the joint committee on finance. Appropriation requests may be divided into 3 allotments: personal services, other operating expenses and capital outlay or such other meaningful classifications as may be approved by the joint committee on finance.
(1m) Immediately after the delivery of the budget message, the budget bill or bills shall be introduced without change into either house by the joint finance committee and when introduced shall be referred to that committee. …

The budget bill is thus about state appropriations.  It has nothing to do with whether a particular proposal will have fiscal impact. In fact, as Rep. Hutton should know by now, every bill proposed in the legislature should have attached to it a “fiscal note” explaining the fiscal impact of the bill. The fiscal note may be prepared by an agency affected by the bill or by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, but the mere fact that a bill has a fiscal impact does not make is part of the budget bill.

Rep. Hutton, and others, are also ignoring, perhaps willfully, the LFB’s lengthy memo on prevailing wage legislation’s fiscal impact and the anticipated impact in Wisconsin. Several Wisconsin agencies indicated, with respect to the currently-proposed legislation, that the fiscal impact could not be determined. Others indicated that it was small. The LFB also offered detailed analysis of the impact of prevailing wage legislation in other states, finding that the impact was mixed, if not negligible. (The memo is available here: http://host.madison.com/prevailing-wage-legislative-fiscal-bureau-memo/pdf_8015cf7d-c51a-5d14-9e20-e710d7623fbb.html)

An attempt to repeal Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law has nothing to do with state appropriations and everything to do with reducing wages even further, in a state that has already fall behind most of the Midwest. The proposal does not belong in the budget. The Joint Committee on Finance should reject this attempt at an end run around a full debate of a contentious issue.

Republicans In Madison Seemed Confused About State Owned Assets

Over the past several weeks we’ve seen the Republicans in the state legislature grant the governor broad and unethical powers to sell any variety of state assets. The plan would be to sell the facilities and lease them back from the new owners or in the case of utilities buy the heat or steam or electricity from the new owner.

Quite frankly this doesn’t make sense…there is no way that you can sell an asset that you own to a third party…lease it back while they are making a profit…and expect to get a better deal than owning the asset…the math don’t work out.

And now they’ve taken exactly the opposite tack…decide to build new buildings…namely a new Transportation Department Headquarters. In all fairness, the legislature is reducing the amount being budgeted for new buildings…but they apparently feel they need this one. Will they include a stipulation that the governor can’t sell it for a certain period of time or will we build it and immediately sell it and then lease it back?

If they really think that leasing buildings for government use is the best way to go…maybe just maybe…they should ask a developer to build the Trans Dept HQ and lease it from the get go and see how that works out for Wisconsin!

And maybe they should ask the feds exactly how that worked out for them with the Reuss Federal Plaza…ah…not so good.

Wisconsin parents call for re-investment in K-12 public education: ‘Repair the damage’

[This is the press release referred to in Parents Respond to Walker’s Education Policy post]

For Immediate Release, January 14, 2013
Contact: Jasmine Alinder, (414) 378-7262 or Angela McManaman, (414) 793-4815

Wisconsin parents call for re-investment in K-12 public education:‘Repair the damage’

It’s a new year, and new, improved education funding possibilities await Wisconsin
schoolchildren. Parents across Wisconsin are calling for a renewed commitment and reinvestment in the state’s public schools as Wisconsin expects a budget surplus of $300 million and substantial revenue growth. Devastating cuts to K-12 education in the 2011-13 biennial budget have resulted in layoffs, larger class sizes, reduced program offerings, and poorer results for Wisconsin’s nationally recognized public education system.

“The cuts in the last budget, on top of the past 20 years of revenue limits, have been devastating for urban and rural schools. We need to put money back into our education system if we want to prepare our children for the jobs of the future,” says Jill Gaskell of the Pecatonica, Wis., PTA.

A 2011-2013 expected budget surplus of $300 million, plus $1.5 billion in anticipated revenue growth in 2013-2015, means funds are available for increased K-12 funding for Wisconsin public schools. This after $1.6 billion was cut from public schools in the previous budget. http://www.doa.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=9976&locid=166

Concerned parents from Stevens Point, Wis. including Jeri McGinley and other members of School Funding Reform for Wisconsin, are writing to all Wisconsin legislators urging them to reinvest in public education and fix the state’s broken funding system. “Increasing class sizes, decreasing course offerings, and growing achievement gaps are only a few examples of the damage being done to our schools and children in every area of our state,” said McGinley. “Future projections indicate that these problems can only increase under the existing formula.”

In the last two years, Wisconsin school districts eliminated more than 3,400 teachers and other personnel. Districts have found additional ways to spend less on children’s education – from cutting foreign language, physical education and music offerings to neglecting necessary upkeep on aging school buildings and relying on outdated textbooks.

“Budgets are about values and priorities,” says public school parent and board President of Parents for Public Schools of Milwaukee Jasmine Alinder. “There is no financial justification to not put our children first. In fact, investing in our children is key to attracting families, businesses, and preparing our kids for employment in high-demand jobs. Our state cannot hope to be competitive if we don’t repair the damage that was done to public education with the last budget.”

“I work at a hospital, and physicians looking at coming to the area are looking at our education system; they’re looking at our district,” testified parent Anne Heise at a recent public hearing in Rhinelander, Wis. “They won’t come if we don’t have a quality school system.”

“In the last budget cycle, we saw the deepest cuts to our public schools in state history,” said Alinder. “My child lost her art teacher and her class size grew. Our schools are not the same or better, and there is no excuse not to do something about it now. Wisconsin can afford to this, and we can’t afford not to.” ###