COVID-19: Lessons Learned: Balanced Budget Laws Hamstring States During World Pandemics

The great tsunami of conservative policy early this century included the demand for state balanced budget amendments. And of course former Governor Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos just had to have one…so of course Wisconsin does.

The conceit is you have to live within your budget and so of course your state government should too. And it works great when the economic environment is moving in the positive direction. Except when you get into a bind you can use your credit card or ask for help from a family member. And this whole thing goes against the other trend of running government like a business…well…because business almost always runs with debt and re-financing…and whatever.

But now we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic which is also destroying our economy. There is no denying that life saving practices like forced closures and customer limits and social distancing have had increasingly negative effects on local businesses. So it would be really cool if Wisconsin could help them out…but it technically has limits…because it has a balanced budget amendment. We won’t get into the do nothing Republicans in control of the legislature in Madison but there is some issue there as well.

So it would really be cool if Madison could step up and help out. But it can’t. And at this point we can’t even rely on a better heeled and more budgetary flexible relative…because Uncle Sam just doesn’t see the point in bailing out those profligate states and cities…nor it’s own citizens who he has left to their own fate (maybe we’ll see a bill today, no?).

Hang tough…not sure when we’ll see financial help.


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