Neumann proposes direct ballot initiatives, ignores effect on state budget

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann has ideas on how to reform the way Wisconsin’s government works, but unfortunately, some of his ideas aren’t really that great. As part of his five point “Strong Wisconsin Reform” plan, Neumann proposes the ‘Let the People Decide’ Reform, which would enable Wisconsin’s citizens to bring initiatives and referenda before all voters in Wisconsin via a statewide ballot:

An increasingly common complaint of Wisconsin citizens is that government ignores their calls for reform. As Governor, Mark Neumann will support allowing citizens to bring initiatives and referenda before all voters via a statewide ballot. In order to appear on the ballot, a percentage of supporting petition signatures from eligible citizens will be collected in a proportionate amount from every county.

While citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives and referenda certainly may seem like a good idea on the surface, there’s a key point Mark Neumann doesn’t acknowledge about such initiatives and referenda, that being that those referenda and ballot initiatives cost money. After all, it costs money to print ballots and run elections, and given Wisconsin’s budget difficulties, it seems foolhardy to mandate that the state spend more money on any random ballot initiatives and referenda that happen to get enough signatures to merit a statewide ballot. What’s more, if there’s a lesson to be learned from the state of California, it’s that giving citizens the ability to have ballot initiatives and referenda brought for for statewide consideration can be extremely costly:

Would more elections cost more money? Not necessarily. Statewide elections typically cost taxpayers anywhere from $50 million to $100 million. But by instituting a strict quarterly system, election officials could plan years in advance and perhaps cut cheaper deals with printers and other suppliers. A quarterly system could be combined with new measures to push voting by mail or reforms such as instant runoff voting (which permits voters to rank choices), thus reducing costs.

Granted, the costs associated with citizen-sponsored ballot initiative and referenda wouldn’t be quite as high in Wisconsin as in California, but even if such measures cost the state an extra $5-10 million per year more, the cost would hardly seem worth it, given our state’s fiscal difficulties.

Caffeinated Politics has more on this.


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10 thoughts on “Neumann proposes direct ballot initiatives, ignores effect on state budget

  1. Neumann also wants to introduce California-style term limits to Wisconsin’s legislature. In California, this has led to an amateur legislature that is heavily dependent on lobbyists for expertise. California’s disastrous electric deregulation bill was written by Enron, and most of the lawmakers who voted for it did not understand its implications. Taken together, these two suggestions of Neumann’s show a desire to give well-funded corporations more influence over Wisconsin’s laws. No surprise there.

  2. Correct Jill. I decided not to comment on Neumann’s stunt because Pretty Important didn’t need another post about how much I hate term limits.
    They happen every election!!

  3. I go back and forth on term limits. I do see why folks think they’re a good idea, but I also know it’s important to have some institutional memory in legislative bodies.

  4. What really gets me is the tendency of politicians to run on the platform, and then change their mind when the limit is up. Gil Gutknecht running for MN-1 in 2006, the year his six term limit was up while I was going to school in Winona really shaped my opinion on term limits.

    1. Yeah, I don’t really put much stock in politicians who say they’ll only serve X number of terms, because more often than not they end up staying much longer than that.

  5. I tend to agree with Zach, I’m not a huge fan of career politicans because I think they can lose touch with reality after a while, but I also don’t want a bunch of newbies cycling in and out. And also, if a politician is in office for a long while it’s because voters keep putting them there (obviously). Limits do make a bit more sense with the executive, just because in WI and federally, that is a more powerful office (although I do agree with Bill Clinton that it should be amended to say two CONSECUTIVE terms, and then maybe we wouldn’t always have such lame duck 2nd terms).

    As for ballot initiatives, I don’t think they would cost much/any more if they were timed with our regular elections. I think the greater issue is that our government is designed to be a republic, not a direct democracy. That’s why we elect people and have 3 branches of government. The system is designed to be slow and thorough, which often frustrates people, but major issues should not be decided on a whim or be easily tossed back and forth between passage and repeal from year to year. I think we have all witnessed the disaster it has been in CA.

    1. “I think we have all witnessed the disaster it has been in CA.”

      And that’s ultimately why I’m opposed to the idea of direct ballot initiatives, because I see more harm than good coming from virtually anyone being able to get any measure on the ballot.

      1. Exactly. I think the consitutional amendment option on the ballot is an appropriate amount of voter participation on issues. Although I would be curious to see what kind of initiatves Wisconsinites would put forth on a ballot.

        Neumann is no doubt proposing these ideas to stand out and differentiate himself from his primary opponent, and in a year like we are in, the ideas might sound good. In a year that could be bad for incumbents, term limits sound pretty good. And in the age of blogs, status updates, and voting on American Idol, people might find ballot initiatves an an attractive option to assert a greater voice in government.

  6. Give me a full set of newbies every time over what we have. All they seem to learn are bad things & how to get away with stuff. Seriously though, I’d love to see 2 terms for Senators, say 2 or 3 for the House. There are so many people who are perfectly capable of doing the job – really there’s no shortage of people who could do a fine job and legitimately serve the greater good. What’s stopping them is money and not wanting to be a career politician. I disagree on issues with posters much more than I agree – and yet I can say I’d gladly replace a member of Congress with each poster here in a second.

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