Thursday, February 22, 2018

WisGOP pre-election "cut and borrow" spree will hurt us after November

As the frantic last days of this legislative session run down, the GOP-run Assembly keeps adding items to throw in before the election. And the bills from most of these items won't come due until after November 2018.

The latest and largest example of this will come later today, where the Assembly will vote on a plan to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to build correctional facilities over the next few years.
The Assembly passed several anti-crime bills Wednesday as the chamber pushes to complete its work for the session by Thursday. The anti-crime proposals, always popular with Republicans, would give them pro-law enforcement talking points as they head into the fall election.

Speaker Robin Vos said Wednesday that the borrowing for a new 2,000-bed prison could begin "almost immediately" but wouldn't start until after a study group reports back on the state's prison needs. The current adult prisons were 30 percent over capacity as of last week.

"There is no doubt that we know we need an additional facility," Vos said. "We're just speeding up that process because we're going to end up doing it next session anyway."

Paying to build a new prison would be in addition to a separate $80 million plan to overhaul the state juvenile justice system and possibly convert the Lincoln Hills juvenile prison into an adult facility. The Assembly unanimously approved that Wednesday, sending it to the Senate.

The $350 million in borrowed funding for a new adult prison will be offered as an amendment to a $57 million bill up for a Thursday vote. That bill would require the Department of Corrections to recommend revoking probation, parole or extended supervision for anyone under its supervision who is charged with a felony or violent misdemeanor.
That seems like a helluva borrowing spree in a time of rising interest rates, and while the extra space may be needed, given the overcrowding in our prisons during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, the rising cost to pay off that debt is yet another area that will tie up the state budget in coming years. And this borrowing is on top of the $286.8 million that we're going to borrow next week to pay for various projects in this current budget.

That same Senate bill is expected to have another amendment added in that would set aside slightly more than $8 million over 2 years to allow many rural counties to hire additional District Attorneys. Not a bad idea, especially given that rural areas have a hard time coming up with resources on their own (especially in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan).

The catch- the money for the new DAs doesn’t go out until July 1, 2019, so these costs are pushed into the next budget. Sense a pattern?

And yes, some of these things are needed and are probably worthy of support now and in the future. But this is why blowing $174 million on one-time, pre-election tax gimmicks is especially stupid (and that tax giveaway just passed the Assembly this afternoon). Not only would that tax cut get rid of half of the dwindling amount of money that we have for the next 16 months, but it’ll put us further into the hole in the next budget - one which grows with each new initiative from a scared GOP.

We end up here a lot with this guy

To the GOP Legislature’s minor credit, it has corrected some of its prior failed policies and done things such as put a little more money into rural schools and added some assistance for foster care and mental health needs. But we had a chance to use this one-time cushion to invest in things that have a much longer-lasting effect, and with potholes springing up by the day, it’s important to note that the roads weren’t helped at all. Well other than the $134 million that Scott Walker's DOT decided to funnel down to Racine County for Foxconn without any public input.

Not using some of this one-time cushion to remove some of the backlog on the highways is a missed opportunity that will cost Wisconsin jobs along with the higher costs of deferred projects and subpar infrastructure. And we deserve to see just how screwed we would be for next year if we decide to throw away all of our money on these pre-election gimmicks.

We saw what happened the last time we were in this spot before an election for governor, back in 2014. The payoff was when the UW System and other state agencies were given massive cuts to fill a $2 billion budget deficit that was the result of Walker and WisGOP blowing the projected surplus, and our job growth ended up getting cut in half in 2016 vs what it was before 2014.

This was written last year. Nice call, eh?

Let's not have this happen again, shall we? Let's hope that the now-slim GOP majority in the Senate backs off from these reckless maneuvers. If not, MAKE THEM ALL PAY IN NOVEMBER. It's the least we can after what the GOP will make us pay after November.

No comments:

Post a Comment