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The Lakeland Times | Minocqua, Wisc.

Jim Tait 02/01-02/28/17

home : opinions : opinions July 25, 2017

10/22/2010 9:05:00 AM
The good, the bad, and the ugly for Oct. 22

The good ... As we report in today's edition, the state's Legislative Fiscal Bureau has revealed that the state increased spending in the fiscal year that ended June 30 by $222 million more than was budgeted.

Most of the increase was fueled by rising Medicaid costs as people lost their jobs and sought assistance. As we reported, medical assistance enrollments jumped by 12 percent in 2009 and by 13.7 percent in 2010.

If it all looks gloomy, well, it is. But we shouldn't believe there's no good news buried in the numbers. After all, it's always darkest before the dawn.

And the dawn is apparently coming, if the consensus of various polls can be believed: Election Day, Nov. 2.

Citizens angered by the failure of elected officials to deal honestly with spiraling deficits seem poised to make emphatic changes in the way we are governed.

If we are fortunate, good election numbers in November will lead to better budget numbers next year.

The bad ... Of course, until next year at least, we still have the same old special-interest politicians running the show. And that means we still have the same old trickery when it comes to "balancing" the budget.

For years, both Democrats and Republicans have been part of systematic raids on segregated funds to fill budget holes, for example. Those raids, such as the hundreds of millions stripped from the state's transportation fund, have in turn begun to cripple our infrastructure at precisely the very time a healthy infrastructure is needed to maintain and attract businesses.

Then, too, the government continues to push off payments that are due now to the next fiscal year, simply delaying rather than solving the deficit problem. As we reported today, DHS is seeking to delay $44 million in payments due in May until the next fiscal year as a way of "balancing" its budget.

The ugly ... All of this adds up to an ugly situation facing the next governor and Legislature in January.

Add to this year's misery a looming structural deficit of between $2.7 billion and $3.1 billion, and then tack on next year's submitted budget proposals that would add another $1 billion to the deficit and it's crisis time, California-style.

Hard choices need to be made. The $1.2 billion in new taxes and fees thrown into the last budget need to be repealed, and broad, deep corporate tax cuts need to be passed quickly to get the economy moving, people working, and workers paying taxes. Tax rate cuts will translate into full revenue coffers.

But the budget must be slashed deeply, too, and it must be slashed across the board. Giant agencies must, at long last, be reined in. Consider that in Minnesota the Department of Corrections runs on an annual budget of about $465,000, while our Department of Corrections has an annual budget of about $1.3 billion.

What is wrong with this picture?

Benefit reform - trimming the Cadillac benefits of public employees to more closely resemble those in the private sector - can also yield hundreds of millions of dollars.

The special interests must at long last be confronted.

The good news is, again, Election Day is coming.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Article comment by: Andrew Andro

I hope someone already pointed out that Wisconsin has 2.5x the prisoners that Minnesota has. That alone would account for the difference in budget (and Minnesota is $465 million...). Are you suggesting we let some prisoners out?! Maybe we should figure out why we have some many prisoners when Minnesota and Wisconsin have similar populations.

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