3.12.2005

Blogging the Future Wisconsin Conference, pt 1
Taxes and Spending Panel

The panel consists of five people: moderator Representative Glenn Grothman; panelists Senator Tom Reynolds, State Rep. Frank Lasee, JJ Blonien, Steve Loehrke.

Grothman starts - he says that comparing taxes to other states doesn’t do justice to how bad the situation is. Then he lets the panelists start.

Senator Reynolds is first up. The "Whopper of statistics, or the Big Mac if you're a Burger King fan" is that Wisconsin is the last (or 49th according to WEAC) is quality of retirement. "Go West, young man; go South, old man," he says.

Then Representative Lasee is up. He seems much better prepared than Reynolds. He starts with a joke - "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." Someone calls out, "Take that man's mic away!" He says that state Republicans have blindly followed Democratic spending increases. TABOR, he says, will put an end to that by calling for referenda on any proposed government expansion. The root problem, he says, is when government runs a surplus - spending always increases, setting new minimum spending levels for next year.

Now for JJ Blonien. He's the editor for the Wisconsin Conservative Digest, among other things. He largely agrees with Lassee - big government advocates need to be "protected from themselves".

Loehrke is last. He is the school board president in Weyewega/Freemont, but makes clear that he isn't speaking in his capacity as such. He is speaking very quickly from prepared notes. He has a number of things he says need to change in schools:
-Teacher pay scales - performance-based pay
-Reverse current policies that forbid outcome-based rewards for teachers
-School choice
-Standardized tests for passing every grade level
-QEO - Qualified Economic Offer - teachers have been singled out, so it’s bad, but eliminate binding arbitration as well
-Health insurance shouldn’t be controlled by teachers’ unions - base it on state plan
-Teacher discipline
-Centralized jobs - why not use best school’s curriculum for all schools?
-Don’t require experience as a teacher for District Administrator leadership - have this be a business person

Grothman asks the panel about a criticism of TABOR - some say that we shouldn’t have to change constitution - just elect someone else.
Blonien says that for last 35 years, pols have promised that, but haven’t delivered.
Lassee says there is a statute on government growth, but it’s porous and can be ignored.
Reynolds says there needs to be an external constraint on legislators when there is no internal constraint; a vocal minority puts a lot of pressure on legislators.
Loehrke: It's"too hard to be the bad guy."
Lasee says, "We get credit for starting new programs. When nice people ask for small programs, they grow."
Blonien goes back to Colorado: "in Colorado, the legislation came from the people, not the legislature; even Reps opposed it."
Grothman jumps in with a comment: “Nobody wants to wear the black hat”; he also takes a swing at the incompetent press corps - “The only people who know what’s going on are the ones who want to spend money”.
Loehrke has an anecdote: "The Post Crescent came when the school district had trouble, but stopped when we fixed the problem."
Lasee concludes: “power to tax and spend is a lot of power”.

New question: "Most opposition will come from schools - are we spending enough on schools?"
Blonien says no matter how much we spend, it will never be enough; schools face most problems when enrollment is declining - this is on the horizon; many states have done it for less.
Lasee points out that Minnesota spends 12% less than WI; paying teachers less (6% total package) can work.
Reynolds says collective bargaining reform will be needed; "We spend more than any Midwestern state on education - that’s largely due to influence of organized labor in state."
Loehrke calls it the “reverse Robin Hood” - don’t believe teachers are overworked and underpaid; he gets the crowd murmuring about number of days teachers get off even during school year.
Grothman says school districts claim to be cutting, but they aren’t - student-to-teacher ratios are dropping so costs must be going up.

Update: welcome Althouse readers! She was right - it is in fact Representative Glenn Grothman, not a magical Growthman! Althought that would fit in well with what's going on here.