Thursday, April 6, 2017

WisGOP legislators, JFC Dems draw a line on Walker's DOT, policy gimmicks

Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Alberta Darling and John Nygren put out a document today that looks rather innocuous, but it seems to include two intriguing changes from the usual procedure.

The document includes a list of 83 initiatives listed by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau as “non-fiscal policy items.” Candidate Scott Walker promised in 2010 to remove these policy items from the budget when he was running as “clean government reformer” Scott Walker. But like a lot of things, this promise was thrown away once he tricked the rubes into making him Governor Walker, and over the last 8 years, large numbers of policy items have been jammed into the budget, including the 83 this year.

Well, the fellow GOPs that chair the Joint Finance Committee now want to go back to taking policy out of the budget, or at least making those items be voted in to law on their own, as opposed to having to vote to take them out of the budget.
We have identified 83 non-fiscal policy items contained within the Governor’s 2017-19 budget recommendations, and believe that they should not be addressed in the budget, but should instead be considered as non-budget legislation by other standing committees. Accordingly, they will be drafted as individual bills for introduction into the Legislature.
This was also something that the 4 Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee had called for, and they applauded the move by Nygren and Darling, noting that some particular Walker budget proposals are now standalone measures, and probably less likely to be OK'd.
Unfunded mandates on the UW, including new degree and transfer requirements, faculty workload policies, and a student allocable segregated fee opt-out provision. 
Repeal of the prevailing wage and project labor agreements. 
Creation of an Occupational License Review Council and the elimination of certain state boards and councils. 
A study on the transfer of CAFO oversight from the DNR to DATCP.
Let's see if any of these things go anywhere in the future.

The other, smaller part of Nygren's and Darling's document also seems to have significance. Here it is, in its entirety.
With the exception of action on the budget of the Department of Transportation, the Committee will use, as its beginning point, the Governor’s recommendations less the non-fiscal policy items. Thus, the Committee will vote to amend the Governor’s bill. A proposed change to the bill will require a majority vote to be adopted.

For the Department of Transportation, the Committee will entertain motions to amend the adjusted base, rather than the recommendations of the Governor. Although the Governor’s recommendations will be before the Committee, it will take a majority vote for them (or any proposal related to Transportation) to be adopted.
This would seem to remove Walker’s plans for a boost of nearly $71 million in local road aids and a $63.7 million raise in maintenance and upkeep spending for state highways and related facilities, since the numbers would revert to what was set aside for 2017. It also cuts out Walker’s plan to borrow another $500 million for highways, but spending on highway projects also would be reduced by that same amount.

Taking the DOT Fund back to its base levels could pave the way for a raised gas tax or similar revenue-producing measure that doesn’t involve borrowing for those projects or other needs, and on the flip side, might give an idea of just how bad the potholes and delays in projects would be if there is no tax/fee increase or borrowing (which may be the point). Given that Walker continues to say that taxes shouldn't be raised to pay for road projects, the move to pull the DOT fund back to the base seems to be a direct shot at Scotty, and makes it even more intriguing to see what the Joint Finance Committee and both houses of the Legislature can agree to when it comes to funding the states roads and other transportation services....if they can agree to anything at all.

What’s also intriguing is that the “go back to last year’s base” decision does NOT apply to K-12 education, which was something that had been floated by GOP legislators as a way to better evaluate how much money might be made available (and to be seen voting to “increase education” as opposed to “cutting” from Walker’s original plan). That means that the $618 million in added K-12 spending stays in the budget for the time being, at least until the full revenue picture and other needs can be figured out.

So while it looks like a minor document release, today's decision by Co-Chairs Nygren and Darling is going to change the complexion of what gets debated in the 2017-19 budget, and has set a new frame on how this debate will exist. That's not something that we've seen much over the first 6 years in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and it makes me wonder if some members of the WisGOP Legislature is the latest group that has had just about enough of Scott Walker's "posing and politics over reality" form of governance.


  1. Who's trying to win here? I thought tricks like jamming that crap in the budget were used by all the slimes to sneak stuff around...So why is it so bad now that Walker is doing it? Are "they" (slowly) running him out of town, ostensibly in favor of someone else? Have outstate and suburban R's really heard from enough constituents that they're acting differently now? Or is this just classic bait-and-switch look at how clean we are now? Too many questions, too many players with too many motives to make sense of it sometimes...

    1. I'm trying to figure the angle out as well, especially since these same GOPs tried to gut open records 2 years ago by jamming it into the budget.

      I wonder if they're just sick of Walker leaving the real work to the Legislature while he flies around promoting himself at taxpayer expense.

      Other variable here- maybe they realize districts will be redrawn in November, and they aren't as insulated from their bad policies