As of Monday afternoon, details of the Wisconsin budget compromise were still being made available.Â Yet legislators will be asked to vote up or down on the entire document on Tuesday.Â There’s a reason for that.
From Martin Luther to Thomas Jefferson, the great political minds recognized that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed.Â That, of course, assumes that peopleÂ know what they are consenting to.Â Sure, you’ll hear all the big numbers from the press – but let’s dig a little deeper to see the items to which you, as a taxpayer,Â have consented:
Sales Tax Exemptions Related to Wind, Solar, and Gas from Digestion of Anaerobic WasteÂ - p. 121
Yes, you read that correctly – cow dung is now tax-deductible.Â Just feed your cow a serving of “Moons Over My Hammy” from Denny’s, lay back, and prepare to cash your checks.Â There’s an ATM where you least expect it.
Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Clay Pigeons – p. 124
The clay pigeon lobby was out in force for this one, responding to the troublesome dearth of clay pigeons in our everyday lives.Â Apparently the real pigeon lobby couldn’t “scratch” up enough cash.
SalesÂ Tax Exemption for Catalogs – $600,000 – p. 120
This oneÂ is for those people who just don’t think they get enough junk mail.Â Â I am desperately in need ofÂ more opportunities to buy J. Crew turtlenecks, and am thankful state government is there to make that happen.
Short Course to Introduce Chinese Students to the Wisconsin Idea – p. 85
According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau Summary, this new class “would introduce Chinese political, business, and academic leaders and practitioners to the Wisconsin Idea, especially as it relates to China’s environmental issues.”Â In a show of support, the University of Beijing will be offering a class on the “Chinese Idea” – namely, crushing America with its bare hands.Â Vegas has the Chinese military favored over the Badgers by 7.5 points.
Actually, I’d rather the money be spent on helping Yi Jianlian develop a spin move.
The Film Production Tax Credit – $1,000,000 – p. 113
Authors of this tax credit believe throwing a few bucks at film crews is going to make Wisconsin the Hollywood of the upper Midwest.Â If it gets Natalie Portman to a barbeque at my house, I may just pay the whole thing myself.
Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Program – $600,000 – p. 432
From the summary: “Create a buy local grant program whereby DATCP would award grants to individuals and organizations to fund projects designed to increase the local sales of agricultural products grown within the state. Grants under the program would be permitted for the creation, promotion and support of regional food and cultural tourism trails, and for promoting the development of regional food systems.”
Yeah, I don’t know what it does, either.
Sales and Use Tax For Nonprofit Cemeteries – p. 122
Little late for a tax break, don’t you think?Â Â
Three-Tier Liquor Distribution System – p. 126
For some reason, Senate Democrats inserted an extremely complicated change to the state’s liquor distribution system.Â The summary is 10 pages long, and it has nothing to do with actual state finances.Â I challenge any Senator to begin to explain what it does.
Brewpub Permits – p. 136
Apparently, small brewpubs are getting a little too successful at brewing and selling delicious beer in one location.Â Thus, they must be stopped from doing so through state regulation.Â This new license would impose new rules on brew pubs, thereby creating a barrier to entry for new businesses.Â This provision came out of thin air in conference committee – it wasn’t a part of either house’s initial budget plan.
The Grazing Lands Initiative – $800,000 – p. 433
From the summary: “Provide $400,000 SEG annually from the agrichemical management (ACM) fund for a grant to the Wisconsin Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (WGLCI) for technical education and research.”
“Education?” How much does it cost to teachÂ livestock to eat the green stuff growing out of the ground?
Grant to the Allied Painters Union – $250,000 – Â p. 447
“Require Commerce to make grants of $125,000 from the Wisconsin Development Fund in 2007-08 and 2008-09 to the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 7 of the AFL-CIO for training.”
Just straight taxpayer cash to the AFL-CIO for “training.”Â A good one to keep in mind next time you hear that state government is cut to the bone.
Regulation of Elevator Mechanics - p. 450
Again, another licensure requirement that has nothing to do with the budget.Â This is typical “fence me in” legislation, whereby an organization will push the Legislature to create a new permit with requirements only they meet.Â Thus, their competition either can’t meet the requirements or has to spend a great deal of money to do so.
Diesel Truck Idling Reduction Grant Program – $2,000,000 – p. 453
This program provides grants to companies with diesel trucks to aid them in purchasing “idling reduction units.”
Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat – $20,000 – p. 487
Those lazy butterflies have been mooching off the taxpayers long enough.Â Maybe we can get them jobs with the painter’s union.
These, of course, are merely the tip of the iceberg.Â There are dozens of local pork projects packed in, costing millions.Â It should also be noted that the projects above are bipartisan – manyÂ were inserted by the Republican-controlled Assembly, and more wereÂ proposed by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The thing they all have in common is that none of them will be mentioned in any way either in the debate or news coverage of the budget.Â (That’s not to fault the media – they obviously need to hit the big themes in the one day before the budget goes to the floor.)Yet this is theÂ budget processÂ to which we provide our consent.Â