Sunday, March 11, 2018

GOP Senate's choice- allow Walker to bankrupt state, or kill his pre-election gimmicks?

Haven't checked back on where things stand in the Legislature recently. Despite what Scott Walker tries to spin when avoiding elections, the Senate is still planning to take the floor on Tuesday the 20th, and there's a serious question as to what (if anything) they'll vote for.

There were some indications last week from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald that all of the bills that the Assembly bum-rushed through the Legislature last month might not get to Governor Walker's desk, the biggest of which was a bill that would overhaul the state's juvenile prison system. Fitzgerald said the bill was "not ready for prime time', and also seemed to have had his fee-fees hurt because Governor Walker and Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos didn't talk to him beforehand.
“I doubt very much it would pass as is,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters Wednesday. “If you watch the process on that piece of legislation … it’s horrendous. It didn’t go through the right channels. I didn’t feel we had the right people in the room.”

Fitzgerald’s comments put the plan to close the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in peril despite a 95-0 vote last month in the Assembly to pass it and an endorsement from Gov. Scott Walker....

Fitzgerald said there are enough votes in the Senate to close the prison but not enough information about how the plan would work to get his support. He said if he had been invited to meetings between Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and other Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the plan they created might not be in peril at this point.
Fitzgerald also noted that the Joint Finance Committee hasn't had the chance to debate and sign off on the juvenile corrections bills and other initiatives, and he'd want that to happen. And remember, if the JFC or the Senate amends the bill, the Assembly would have to be called off of their 10 1/2 month taxpayer-funded vacation.

One other problem Fitz may be having is the price tag of all of these pre-election goodies. Remember, there's only a projected $385 million to play with for the next 15 1/2 months, and the bills that Robbin' Vos and company shoved ahead to the Senate would pretty much use up all of that money.

Tax cuts + added costs $174.4 million
Rural WEDC $50 million
"Pee in a cup" welfare changes $37.9 million
Crime bills $19.4 million
Talent attraction program $6.8 million
Sparsity aid $6.5 million
Kimberly Clark bailout $6.0 million
Historic Tax Credit expansion $3.5 million
New Business Ventures $3.5 million
Extra anti-Drug Trafficking funds $3.4 million
Other bills $5.2 million


With a strong possibility that there will be lower state tax revenues in the next few months due to higher refunds resulting from Wisconsinites accelerating property tax payments and other write-offs into the end of 2017 (thanks GOP Tax Scam!), that tiny cushion could well be gone by within 3 months.

Then realize that the crime bills, the changes at Lincoln Hills and other youth prisons, and the $200 million Obamacare prop-up that has already been signed into law will cause additional costs hit in the NEXT budget. So passing all of these pre-election gimmicks sets up a massive structural deficit for 2019-21, and a lot of Republican Senators are up for election in 2020 will have to deal with the awful options that would remain from such a smash-and-grab.

Haven't we seen enough of this routine the last 7 years, with declining job growth and young people leaving because of the regressive policies of Walker and WisGOP? Can we break this cycle, please?

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