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: New budget gimmick employed by Gov. Doyle

State budget

This is not the sexiest blog ever published on Conservatively Speaking. However, the following revelations are critical in understanding why Wisconsin continues to suffer major budget problems.

Wisconsin, by statute, must have a balanced budget every two years. During recent budgets, several gimmicks have been utilized to balance the books including transferring funds (i.e., transportation), lowering the amount of required budget surpluses, and eliminating the requirement to have a balanced budget for a particular year.

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) discovered that Governor Doyle used a new trick in signing the 2009-11 state budget into law. Simply put according to WISTAX, the governor used his expansive veto authority to issue a partial veto promising that his administration would lapse, meaning cut spending or transfer monies from other funds to the general fund, $200 million by mid-2011.

WISTAX writes in a new report, “If, when, and where these (unspecified cuts or fund transfers) will occur is unclear…..Also unclear is whether the details of the promised action will ever be broadly scrutinized.”

This new information gathered by WISTAX raises several flags including, as WISTAX points out, questions about accountability, the potential for misuse, and the separation of powers. WISTAX poses the following questions that are extremely important:

“First, what prevents any legislature or governor from developing a deficit budget and then, to balance it, ‘plugging’ into the budget an unspecified promise of future cuts or transfers sufficient to produce an ending surplus? And, if the governor can promise $200m in future lapses this year, why can’t a future chief executive or legislature promise $500m to cover a $500m deficit? Or $1 billion (b) to avoid a $1b shortfall?

Second, as a separate and coequal branch of government, is it constitutionally wise for the legislature to cede substantial budget-making authority to the executive branch?

And, finally, what assurances do legislators or citizens have that the promised actions will occur and that they will be informed in a timely and detailed manner of what was done?”

That is a rather diplomatic way of asking if we can trust the governor who has made an unspecified promise that the public and the press are virtually unaware.

I commend WISTAX for its outstanding research. 

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