Saturday, March 22, 2008

Okay. Let's All Be Silly

Jo started it. She came up with a list of things that she says can be cut from the budget. She calls it Getting Serious. Some of us think she's being silly.

4-year-old kindergarten. Yup, some folks don’t like it. This is not easy

Nevertheless… more ideas:
How about summer school? Non-essential summer school, that is. Offer classes only to seniors serious about getting their diploma, but missing critical credits.

As long as we’re talking about schools and being controversial, how about the SAGE program that provides for classes with no more than 15 students? Or simply allow a district not to have to offer SAGE everywhere – wouldn’t that make sense?

Ok, we’re on a roll. A reader suggested lowering the QEO – the maximum wage and benefit increases for school districts. Oh my. Heads will roll and the seas will part. But it’s a darn good suggestion and would have a significant impact on state and local budgets moving forward. (**See below.)

How about this? The Tomah Journal Sunday detailed the phasing out of retiree health benefits – for teachers hired for the 2007-08 year and beyond. (Most) any
savings at the district level is a savings at the state level. Yeh!

Another reader suggestion: Eliminate the ethanol subsidy of $.20/gallon and the farm tax exemption. I don’t know anything about these programs, but am glad to throw them in.

Nevermind that most of her education proposals are not within the control of the Legislature anyway. Or try to ignore the long-term effects of these short-term savings. If we're going to just offer up things to be axed without regard to monetary or human impacts let's Get Serious.

1) The State Patrol duplicates services of hundreds of local and County departments. 100% off the table.

2) Snow plowing. People need to get to their jobs to be productive so we have to plow the roads to their place of employment. After that it's up to them to make arrangements. Only plow the side of the highway that takes people to work. 50% savings the first year.

3) Department of Commerce. It's time to privatize privatization. Let WMC take over the costs of the DoC and start building their own support system. We've had all the coddling of those whiners we can stand. 100% cut.

4) Benefits for legislators. 100% off the table. It's a part-time job. Let 'em file for Badger Care.

5) BEST? Out with the rest. CLTF? Train your own technicians. Industrial Revenue Bonds? Businesses can do business with their banks. Call it a win-win. Transportation Assistance for Development Plans? If your factory needs a road you'll have to build it. We're making cuts here. 100%+100%+100%+100%=400% savings right off the bat.

See? Jo is right. It's hard work figuring out who to stick it to when you're wielding the Vorpal Shiv Of Righteous Budget Cutting but once you get started the cuts come faster.

Jo has a list of how some other states are looking at cutting services.

7,000 mentally ill and elderly in Maine could be dropped from Medicaid

Florida slashed $512M from public schools and juvenile justice programs
in March.

Arizona is considering eliminating child-care subsidies for 3,200
children in low income families

All of these are cuts in the short term that will only bring more expense to the states year after year. The myth of large swathes of "government fat" is attractive to those who only look at one side of the tax/spend equation. The fact is that no such huge pockets of money exist.

My list of cuts is facetious, of course. The economic development programs keep Wisconsin competitive despite the efforts of WMC to drive business away. Education is an investment in our future that we would ignore at our peril. Even the bennies for leggies programs may help attract some qualified people. (Quit laughing. It could happen. They can't all be Marlin and Frank.)

A state budget is a list of priorities. If something means nothing to you then you should stand up and say so. Don't cloak your disdain in language that makes it look like something else.


Jo Egelhoff, said...

Ok grumps, where's your (serious) list? The state should just continue expanding program after program? (Winnowing the Highway Patrol is one I'll add to my 'serious' list.) Perhaps you best get serious with a solution. How high should taxes be raised? What will the long-term impact be? What will the long-term impact of continued deficits and smoke-and-mirror budgeting? It's VERY serious stuff....

John Foust said...

What, no discussions of tourism, from either side?

This list reminds me of a suggestion once floated by a City Council member here. I think he was serious. He wanted to save on the city's electric bills, so he suggested we un-screw every other street light. When someone said that would take considerable time, he suggested they could be shot out.