Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson thinks our government has been on a spending spree, and he’s made it clear that if he’s elected to the U.S. Senate, he’s going to work to cut government spending. There’s no mention of earmarks on Johnson’s website, so it’s not clear whether he supports the use of earmarks as a means for legislators to “bring home the bacon” to their constituents, but given Johnson’s tone on government spending, I can’t help but assume he’s opposed to earmarks. I did make multiple attempts to contact Johnson’s campaign to find out his position on earmarks, but I couldn’t get a straight answer, other than a response that Johnson might support certain earmarks as a way of funding certain things that couldn’t get funded otherwise.
What I’d like to know (and I’m hoping Johnson’s campaign will answer at some point) is whether or not Ron Johnson supported the $500,000 earmark for the Oshkosh Opera House included in the 2009 state budget, despite the fact that the 2009 state budget started with a record deficit (emphasis mine):
Facing a record deficit that forced them to raise taxes and fees by $2.1 billion to balance the budget, Assembly Democrats added millions for projects they can brag about back home – a $500,000 upgrade for an opera house; $50,000 for a shooting range; and $46,000 for a town’s recycling bins.
As they erased a $6.6 billion, two-year deficit, Assembly Democrats added $36.7 million in regional favors, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau summary.
Five of the projects – including the $500,000 for the Oshkosh Opera House, $500,000 for an Aldo Leopold Climate Change Classroom and Laboratory, and $125,000 for the Phillips Library in Eau Claire – have not been recommended by the state Building Commission, which is supposed to approve construction and maintenance spending.
It’s worth noting Ron Johnson is the Treasurer of the Oshkosh Opera House Foundation Board of Directors, so the $500,000 earmark for the Oshkosh Opera House is something Johnson surely has knowledge of, and as the treasurer of the Opera House board, I can’t help but wonder what Johnson’s role might have been in securing that earmark for the Opera House during a time that the state’s budget was distressed.
For what it’s worth, incumbent Democratic Senator Russ Feingold has never requested an earmark during his time in the U.S. Senate, so at least we know unambiguously where Sen. Feingold stands when it comes to earmarks.