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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wisconsin Budget Kabuki and a Regularly Scheduled 'Crisis'

It's my opinion that the words "budget crisis" should be banned from political conversation in Wisconsin. This state, like many states, has a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, so whenever it's time for a new budget, we're facing a "budget crisis." Every time, without fail. Both parties use the term to bludgeon the other party into submission -- "Gah! It's a budget crisis! Why aren't you helping us save Wisconsin?" -- and the media always plays into it. Face it, "Budget Crisis!" makes for better headlines than "Same Kabuki BS That Happens Every Two Years is Happening Again." If the biennial budget constitutes a "budget crisis," then Wisconsin has had over a century of incredible luck in resolving these crises. We're always on the verge of... I don't know, being a failed state I guess... and every time, we manage to be pulled back from the brink of certain doom.

This is why I don't give Gov. Scott Walker a lot of credit for solving the "budget crisis" with his union-busting and his attacks on the middle and lower classes. Walker has managed to do what every single governor before him has done (some of them less burdened by the weight of intelligence than even Scott, by the way), making this less of a towering achievement and more of just a routine. Scott Walker merely managed to avoid what every governor has managed to avoid. This isn't some singular triumph of leadership. In fact, it may be that in the history of this clockwork crisis, few governors have handled it as poorly.

And with that little rant, I herald in deadline day -- the day the petitions to recall Scott Walker must be turned in. The heroic Walker won't be there to watch them roll in.

Chicago Tribune:

Supporters of an unprecedented effort to oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office said they will turn in more than enough signatures Tuesday to force the Republican into a recall election barely a year into his first term.

Walker, however, has no plans to be anywhere near the Capitol when recall organizers turn in the signatures by Tuesday's deadline. The governor is scheduled to be in New York when organizers say they will be unloading the stacks of petitions, weighing a ton, from a truck and hauling them into the state election board's offices.


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For their part, recall organizers say they've collected the roughly 540,000 signatures needed to trigger a recall and exceeded it by 200,000 more. This is going to happen. If I were Scott Walker, I wouldn't want to be around to watch the truck roll in either.

And why is Walker being recalled? Because his approach to the "budget crisis" consisted of unbelievable overreach. He used it as a hammer to ban collective bargaining for public employees -- and it didn't work. The other side wasn't cowed into accepting what was a blatantly false argument and that skepticism was later shown to be right. Walker testified to congress -- under oath -- that doing away with collective bargaining "doesn't save any" money. And the argument that it was a crucial step to solving our routine and scheduled "crisis" died right there.

But that's not the only reason. One factor that got me behind the recall was Walker's bass-ackward economics and his attacks on the working poor to the benefit of the rich.

The Capital Times:

Wisconsin residents with long-term capital gains will enjoy a new break while lower income filers could see less money under changes in 2011 state and federal income tax laws.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) on Tuesday released its annual income tax guide and has noted a few minor adjustments.

At the state level, the biggest change includes a deferral for certain capital gains reinvested in qualified Wisconsin businesses and an exempting of health savings accounts (HSAs) from state income tax.

Walker's capital gains tax cut means that 30% of all income made from capital gains -- no matter how much that is -- isn't taxable income. Meanwhile, Walker's budget "also eliminates inflation indexing for the Homestead Credit. That program benefits lower-income tax filers." Walker's continuously claimed to address the "budget crisis" without raising taxes -- a claim that is nothing but a flat-out lie. He also cut the Earned Income Tax Credit, raising taxes further on the working poor.

At least the wealthy won't have to struggle to get by though, huh? Walker is literally taking money from the working poor and giving it to the wealthy. And again, this has nothing to do with balancing the budget.

I'm glad today is deadline day, because we can't get rid of this guy soon enough. And the next time you hear about a Wisconsin "budget crisis," go ahead and shrug it off.

-Wisco


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