State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
I was apprehensive about the Legislature‘s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) meeting this past holiday weekend, and it turns out with good reason.
The Democrat-controlled JFC met last Friday and Saturday and again Tuesday, and in their haste to finish their business by the end of May made some bad votes on party-lines.
I am going to list some of them and the key question to ask when considering each vote is how does the action taken help resolve the state’s massive $6.6 billion dollar budget deficit?
Friday, May 22, 2009
Here is a biggie. The JFC approved allowing illegal immigrants to pay resident tuition at state universities.
More increased spending: The JFC approved expanding health insurance and retirement benefits for domestic partners of sate employees. The annual cost, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, could range from $11-16 million. Even if this was a good idea (it’s not), this is clearly not the time for such an expansive and expensive policy.
The JFC approved, but put off until the next biennial state budget, 50 new public defender positions, a blatant example of increased spending using the failed approach of the state’s credit card. The cost in the 2011-13 state budget is $4.4 million that the state doesn’t have.
The JFC agreed with Governor Doyle’s proposed creation of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Another new program is created at an additional cost to state taxpayers. Seven new faculty members will receive average salary and benefits packages of $164,000.00 each. Support staff for the faculty members will receive salary and benefits averaging $128,000.00.
The committee also endorsed Governor Doyle’s proposed increased spending of $2 million for the Wisconsin Genomics Initiative.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
The JFC rescinded its previous vote to cut $3,000 in gaming law enforcement, resulting in more spending.
Once again following suit with Governor Doyle, the committee approves tripling the fee for background checks. The garbage tax is more than doubled from $5.90 per ton to $13.00 per ton, a measure that according to the LFB will cost local municipalities $63 million per year that more than likely will result in local property tax increases.
A requirement that construction projects provide a prevailing wage is approved, a provision that will kill jobs restrict economic development.
Fines are created for pharmacies that refuse to dispense contraceptives.
The committee agrees with Governor Doyle’s proposal to expand the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver program to include men, increasing spending by $355,000 in 2009-10 so that condoms can be provided to male recipients in the program.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Beginning January 1, 2011, all state and local government would be required under the JFC vote to keep track of the racial makeup of all traffic stops and submit those numbers to the Department of Justice.
The handgun purchaser record check fee is lowered from the governor’s recommendation. The fee is currently $8. Governor Doyle had wanted it raised to $30. The JFC raises it to $13.
The committee increased the reimbursement rate to foster care providers by five percent beginning in 2011.
A total of $55,000 was approved for the Gay Straight Student alliance in public schools.
The JFC approves raiding the Agrichemical fund that is funded by a tax on agrichemicals in order to pay for county fairs.
A meat tax is eliminated; however the state could impose a meat tax after July 1, 2010. To replace the funding that the meat tax was going to raise, the JFC raids money from the agrichemical fund.
The committee approved $46,000 for the purchase of new recycling bins for Wrightstown.
Again, the key question is, how do any of these votes help resolve the state’s budget deficit?
The JFC raised taxes, raised fees, increased spending, and created new government positions at a time the state is in a hole by $6.6 billion.
The bad news is the JFC isn’t done yet.
UPDATE: JFC action late Thursday-early Friday morning, 5/28/09-5/29/09.