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This is a budget without principles

June 13, 2013 | 0 comments

A commentary by Darin Von Ruden, Westby, President of the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

This proposed 2013-2015 Wisconsin State Budget is without principles.

If this budget is about deficit reduction, why are we creating a structural deficit through income tax cuts?

Wisconsin Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) has introduced a tax cut that will apply the same tax rate across the board. So those making $12,000 a year will pay the same rate as those making $300,000 a year.

Lack of fairness aside, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the cut will grow to $914 million in the next budget, creating a huge hole, with only projected income to make up for the tax losses.

What income? What will possibly fill this hole?

This is more trickle-down policy and there's little evidence that the money ever actually trickles down.

Wisconsin Farmers Union urges caution and a full analysis of consequences before making significant changes to the Wisconsin tax code.

If this budget is about responsible spending by the state and personal responsibility by individuals, why are we not accepting federal dollars to insure more people through Medicaid?

More insured people saves money for everyone. The alternative is to require hospitals and people with insurance to pick up the tab for emergency room visits by those who don't.

To offset that expense, the Governor is now proposing to give money to emergency rooms to help cover the extra costs.

Exactly how does this help people who need and can't afford adequate health insurance? And does this really protect the already insured from paying higher premiums to also cover the costs?

Wisconsin Farmers Union urges the state legislature to pursue a Medicaid strategy that prioritizes maintaining eligibility for the largest possible number of citizens and leverages all available federal dollars to support Medicaid programs.

If this budget is about economic development, why are we cutting proven programs like the Ag Development and Diversification Program (ADD)?

This program generated a 19-to-1 return on state investment, and cost only $340,000 per year.

The Joint Finance Committee zeroed out ADD, but budgeted $59 million for the floundering Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which can't account for millions in loans, has been rife with mismanagement and lack of accountability, and can't even count how many (if any) jobs have been created.

Wisconsin Farmers Union urges the state legislature to maintain historical budget funding levels for proven economic development programs such as the ADD, and Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin.

If this budget is about investing in children and the future, why are we squeezing public schools to the breaking point?

Our rural schools are among the hardest hit and typically do not have access to private schools. But simply, why would we give about $70 million in public tax money to private schools that have little accountability to taxpayers and that will only benefit a few?

This will certainly come at some expense of what has traditionally been an excellent public school system.

Why would we not invest public money in our public schools to keep them that way? Wisconsin Farmers Union opposes public school funds going to support vouchers for private schools.

If this budget is an exercise in the democratic process, why does it include a special-interest policy such as the high capacity well provision that has no fiscal impact and was inserted into the budget without public input or hearings?

Wisconsin Farmers Union urges transparency in legislation development and hopes the state legislature will practice great caution with laws that can deeply and negatively impact our farmland, water and environment.

We think it's entirely possible to base a budget on principles that not all may agree with, but that everyone can respect.

The Wisconsinites I know are people of principle. We expect the same from our leaders. So far, the Governor and the Joint Finance Committee have fallen short.

Let's hope that the full Senate and Assembly do better by their constituents.

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