Thursday, June 04, 2009

Democrats Gone Wild, the Madison edition

Starting this week the Waukesha Freeman will no longer be posting my column online at Some changes are being made to the website and the opinion columnists are moving behind the subscription wall. Think of it as Conley Select. Or you can still read it on the dead tree version for just 50 cents. Paper, ink, it's all so retro and fun.

I'll also be posting the column here (instead of just excerpts), but not until Thursday evenings.

This week's column tackles the state budget again as the whole process has just become so much tax-and-spend Democratic porn.
Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jun 4, 2009; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A

Democrats gone wild

Proposed budget most radical in state history

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

We’re in the home stretch now on the state budget process. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee finished with the budget (with much of the work being done late at night and behind closed doors). Now the budget goes to the Assembly, then the Senate, then finally to the governor for his final rewrite with his veto pen.

How much of the current budget proposal is going to survive is still an open question. Democrats may have the majority in both chambers, but the proposed budget certainly qualifies as one of the most radical in state history. Different Democrats may defect on different votes as the Republicans offer amendment after amendment this week. Look for more closed-door meetings, more late-night sessions, and more dealmaking as the Democrats line up the votes to make sure the budget passes.

Some of the provisions in the current budget proposal are just shocking.

Hostility to “Big Oil” has always been standard fare for the Democrats, but even Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Marc Pocan admits the new tax on oil company profits with the provision that the tax not get passed on to consumers might be unconstitutional. Still, he hopes to somehow fix it, according to, in order to protect $270 million for the transportation fund.

Somebody needs to ask Pocan the obvious question: If Democrats are so concerned about the transportation fund, wouldn’t it be wiser to stop raiding it, so far $1.1 billion, to fund other items in the state budget?

Then there’s the Democrats’ continued hostility to any child receiving an education outside a Wisconsin Education Association Council-approved institution. Rep. Pedro Colon, D-Milwaukee, inserted at the last minute a requirement for any school in the choice program where over 10 percent of the students had limited English proficiency to have bilingual education.

The Democrats also cut funding for choice program students by $165 each. Brett Healy of the MacIver Institute points out choice schools receive $6,607 per pupil compared to more than $13,000 for students in Milwaukee Public Schools.

Meanwhile, as a favor for the teachers unions, Democrats are repealing the Qualified Economic Offer that helps keep public education costs in check.

Republicans can seize the education issue and make it a winner in the next election cycle. Clearly they are the party of reform, while the Democrats are the party of continuing to subsidize failure.

It’s hard to pick the most brazen grab for tax money, but surely the tax on cell phones has to be near the top of the list.

In 2003 the state imposed a tax on cell phones to upgrade the 911 system to be able to pinpoint 911 cell phone calls. When the upgrades were done, the state under Governor Doyle kept the $20 million in “leftover” money. (Nothing says “home cooking” the books like “leftovers.”)

The Democrats are not only going to keep the tax in place, they are going to raise it by 75 cents per month and impose it on every phone, including the land lines. The total tax increase on cell phone users is $100 million, but it gets worse.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that using a tax on cell phones for something other than the 911 system may make the state ineligible for federal funds. This means local communities will have to raise taxes more to pay for the costs of supporting the 911 system.

Perhaps the most absurd provision in the state budget is the idea of creating a special driver’s license for illegal aliens. Did nobody in Madison say to themselves that if we can identify the illegal aliens to give them the special driver’s licenses, we ought to just deport them?

I once described the state budget process as a horror picture. We’re now in the genre of tax-and-spend porn, “The Democrats Gone Wild.” No wonder they’re busy making decisions late at night with the curtains drawn.

If you’re tempted to smoke a cigarette afterward, they’re raising the tax on that, too.