Conservatively Speaking

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.

State Budget Watch: JFC savages taxpayers in overnight fiasco

State budget, Taxes, Legislation

This is becoming a pattern with the Democrat-controlled state Legislature. While you slept, or as Frank Sinatra once sang, in the wee small hours of the morning, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) approved tax, fee, and spending increases and major policy changes during the worst budget crisis in Wisconsin history.

It all took place following days of secret budget negotiations by Democrats that control the JFC held behind closed doors. Dozens of items were considered with little or no opportunity for review by the general public, the news media, and minority Republicans.

A vote on a 67-page omnibus motion crafted in secret Wednesday and most of Thursday was approved by the JFC along party lines Thursday night at about 10:20. Most state residents had already retired for the day. The final vote approving the budget along party lines, 12-4 was taken by the JFC at 5:30 this morning.

Why the mad rush to meet all night and through the early morning hours to ram through such a critical document? The worst kept secret in the Capitol the past few days was that it was critical the budget work be completed in time for a Senate Democrat golf fundraiser scheduled Friday morning at 9:30.

The depth of the assault on taxpayers along with troubling changes in policy is breathtaking. Let’s examine the damage done by the JFC.

Overall spending increases about seven percent. How and why do you increase spending when the state is $6.6 billion in the hole?

A new hospital tax totaling $44 million over two years would include outpatient surgery centers.

A tax on oil companies was approved that could be unconstitutional. Any tax imposed on oil companies would almost assuredly be passed on to consumers via higher gas prices at the pump.

The JFC slashed state spending on schools and local governments by 2.5 percent. The action might lead local municipalities and school boards to raise property taxes. If cuts in state aid to municipalities somehow fail to result in property tax increases, eliminating the QEO certainly will. The JFC voted to end the QEO that has held the line on property tax increases since 1993

There is yet another raid from the transportation fund, this time totaling $140 million.

The capital gains exclusion on the individual income tax was reduced from 60 percent to 40 percent.

The cigarette tax increase was approved. A sales tax will be charged to all downloaded items including music and books. This is commonly referred to as the iPod tax.

The per child licensing fee for group child care centers and day camps was raised from $10.33 per child to $16.94 per child.

Consumers would be charged 75 cents a month on phone lines to fund police and fire departments.

There is an increase in the minimum amount of auto insurance motorists would be required to purchase if they choose to have insurance.

The JFC increased the time a recipient can be on W-2 from 24 months to 60 months

Funding Governor Doyle cut from the Wisconsin Shares Program, a program I requested be reviewed by the Legislative Audit Bureau, was restored by the JFC.

A provision to require school districts to transport pregnant teens that live less than two miles from school was approved.

Illegal immigrants would be allowed to acquire driver’s licenses, opening up all kinds of possibilities for voter fraud and convenient access to other government services.

The budget was kind to criminals and felons. It cuts funding for sex offender management by reducing funding related to the GPS monitoring program. The JFC cut GPS monitor funding of sex offenders further than the governor by over $5 million dollars and cut 91.25 positions over the biennium. Criminals with class C through I felonies would be allowed to earn positive adjusted time to go towards early release.

The JFC eliminated current joint and several liability rules. A plaintiff could collect damages even when he or she is more at fault for the injury than any individual defendants, as long as the plaintiff’s liability is not greater than the combined negligence of all the persons against whom recovery is sought.

The above and so much more...

This all transpired under the cloak of darkness while the vast majority of Wisconsin was unaware and not paying attention. Process, though complex and unexciting to most should remain important in our legislative system. The process was trampled upon by the JFC, and you, the taxpayers, are the big losers.

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