Wisconsin State Budget in Play

I wonder how any budget is ever sorted out in the political process. It must be very messy.
In large companies, the bean counters are diligently reporting what was spent last year line by line. Except for new initiatives, the managers are attempting to craft a new budget for their department by trying to keep within a few percentage points of the previous year. For new initiatives, there is haranguing at the senior management level about what it will take to launch a new initiative successfully.

Imagine a government budget in which most, if not all, budget items are impacted by laws enacted the previous year and further imagine if the legislators have a tradition of building in expenses for their favorite projects that are unrelated to the routine function of a department.

Add partisanship on top of that, plus no one actually in charge of the construction of an effective and cost efficient budget, and we have a mess. Who has the authority to say ‘no way’ in Wisconsin to any proposed expense?

One week ago, the Wisconsin State Journal had written of Six Ways to Save The State Budget: These are terrific ideas, my question is “Who can do this and how would it be done?” Who actually has the authority to deny pet projects to legislators, turn down requests for increased depatmental budgets, and control overall spending? No one person has that authority and that is what makes this a messy process.

The Wisconsin State Journal also does not like the secrecy surrounding the partisan-shaped budget process.

But state lawmakers in recent weeks have conducted a slew of state budget meetings behind closed doors. Lawmakers huddle in secret with their partisan pals to plot strategy, count votes and cut deals. Then, after hashing out the messy details in the dark, they emerge with agreements the public is supposed to swallow.

Source:Open Up State Budget Debate to Public

The WSJ goes on to talk about Assembly Bill 143: “AB 143 would prevent groups of Democrats and Republicans in each house from meeting in secret as partisan groups, often when a majority of senators or representatives are present.”

Is the secrecy the problem? Or is the process itself so flawed that it cannot produce a quality result?

Are there better ways to do craft a $62B state spending plan?


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2 thoughts on “Wisconsin State Budget in Play

  1. I thought it was disappointing. It should have been a much more open process. We have to see what Governor Doyle’s veto’s look like, but it looks like education funding took a beating, which is a shame. It’s going to catch up with us eventually. On the bright side, it looks good environmentally, so it isn’t all bad news, but I was hoping for something a bit better.

    The AMPS blog (Re: Madison/public education) has a decent analysis here: http://madisonamps.org/2009/06/26/the-world-turned-upside-down/

  2. FOM , thanks for pointing the way. If I read those first four points correctly in that blog, point number one and point number four cannot possibly be true at the same time.
    Does anyone have an explanation of how those two points can both be true at the same time, i.e., $3B in spending cuts and a 6.8% increase in spending?
    The Wisconsin Democrats appearto be calling the substitution of federal stimulus monies into the Wisconsin budget a Wisconsin spending cut because they are not using state tax revenue to do what they once did. That would be a stretch in the definition of a spending cut, wouldn’t it?

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