8.31.2006

Who is the real loser in Elections Board ruling?

Yesterday, the State Elections Board ruled that Congressman Mark Green violated state election law by transferring money from his federal campaign to his gubernatorial campaign. Since then the Governor's campaign and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin have gone for Green's jugular, trying to paint him as a corrupt and dishonest politician. At first glance it looks pretty bad for Green, doesn't it?

Well, it is but not for the reasons you would think.

It is not a good thing that with just over 2 months to election day Green is being accused of committing a crime. It is not good that the media and Doyle's campaign are going to be blasting away nonstop at Green. The problem is that Green really didn't do anything wrong.

In 2001, another sitting congressman named Tom Barrett was also running for Governor. Like Green, Barrett also transferred large sums of money from his congressional campaign to his campaign for Governor. Just like now, Doyle's campaign cried foul, the difference is that back then the Elections Board dismissed the case. In other words, Barrett did the same thing as Green and there was nothing wrong.

Well, what has changed since then? Not much. Democrats I am sure will point to a rule change that was passed by the Elections Board in January of 2005, and say that Green's transfer violated that rule. What is being neglected is the fact that this supposedly illegal transfer took place before the rule change. Imagine that. The media circus makes it sound like the money was transferred last week, doesn't it?

What troubles me most about this is that now Governor Doyle is going to portray Green as the corrupt, bought-and-paid-for politician. In reality, Governor Doyle has some ethics problems of his own he needs to answer: the appearance of pay for play politics in state contracts, and the unconstitutional gaming compacts he negotiated for starters.

This ruling is only going to make the race for Governor dirtier and more vindictive. The real issues of our tax hell, our poor school report, and our ailing economy will all be lost amid cries of who is for sale to the highest bidder.

The real loser in all that is you and me, the voters.

8.21.2006

Regents' Wish List sounds nice, but it's going to cost us

The UW System Board of Regents announced its budget request for 2007-09 last Thursday, and despite a lot of flowery rhetoric about "reinvestment" in the State the Regents still do not get it.

The term "reinvestment" is misleading, what they really plan on doing is spending more money. While no one will argue with the stated goals of the Regents (who would argue with recruiting and retaining better students and faculty or meeting State needs in the healthcare and education arenas?), I do have a problem with the amount of new money they are asking for. In addition to $120 million new tax dollars, they are asking for at least $135 million dollars in new State-funded bonding. In effect, what the Regents are really asking for is a $255 million dollar budget increase.

This is neither good nor responsible for a State that is currently facing another budget shortfall of anywhere from $1.5 to $2.4 billion dollars at the end of this biennium.

The problem I see is that the Regents are again taking the easy way out. I find it hard to believe that there are no places to save money within a budget of nearly $8 billion. With its talk of wanting to bring more jobs into the State and ending the "brain drain" we suffer from, maybe the Regents should be focusing on lessening their impact on our tax burden by trimming some operating costs or seeking private investment and partnerships. Instead, the Regents are content to simply ask the State to not only give them more money, but borrow more for them. The $135 million in new bonding will end up costing much, much more than that by the time the interest is paid in full. And because our State's bond rating is so bad (we are in the bottom 5 states in the nation) it will cost a lot more than it should. Just because students who attend the UW have to go into debt to pay for college doesn't mean the UW System should too.

Also, with the Republican-dominated State Assembly, do the Regents honestly think that they can get this increased spending? There is no chance for the Regents' budget to make it through the Assembly. What will the Regents do then? Will they scale back their lofty goals, or will they do what they have always done and make us pay for it with more and more tuition?

I think we all know who will end up paying for the Regents' "Growth Agenda." It won't be the State, it won't be bonds, it certainly won't be the Regents themselves. Once again those of us whom the University is supposed to serve, the students, will end up footing the bill.

8.02.2006

Is this the end of Communism in Cuba?

Fidel Castro surprised a lot of people the other day when he temporarily transferred authority to his brother, Raul. Understandably, Cuban-Americans were celebrating the fact that this may mark the beginning of the end of Castro's repressive 47 year dictatorship. I hope that they are right.

However, if this is the beginning of the end, we must be careful in how we approach the transition of power. It is my hope that the dissidents in Cuba will be able to demand and get democratic reforms out of the next dictator, but I doubt they can do it themselves. Raul Castro does control the military and would not give up power without a fight.

Like most transitions of power in authoritarian countries, no one in Cuba will be able to have the same level of power or legitimacy as Fidel, and that is the best hope for democratic reformers. Our responsibility, and the rest of the free world, is the same we had in Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union collapsed. We must be ready with aid and investment to help new democratic leaders. Thankfully, I believe that many governments and private businesses are ready to invest in a free and democratic Cuba.

Communism may not yet be dead in Cuba, but there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel. If the world handles this correctly, the people of Cuba will soon have a government of their own choosing that will benefit all people and not just those who sit at the top.

Too Little, Too Late, Governor

It's amazing. The Governor has finally lived up to a campaign promise from 4 years ago. Well, not really, but at least he tried right?

When Governor Doyle was still candidate Doyle four years ago he stood on campus and told us and the state that he would not allow UW budget cuts to be passed on to the students in the form of tuition increases. I was hopeful that he might actually try to follow through with it, at least a little bit anyway. Unfortunately, I couldn't have been more wrong.

Since Gov. Doyle has been in office tuition has increased from $2212.95 per semester in Spring of '03, to $3365.12 when classes start again in the Fall. That's an increase of 65% over just two-and-a-half years. Sounds to me like the Gov. was really working hard to keep his promise doesn't it?

Now he has asked the Board of Regents to keep college affordable, and limit tuition increases to inflation.

Why now does Gov. Doyle want to limit tuition to the rate of inflation? Why now, after 3 years of constant rate hikes, does this issue finally mean something to him? The answer is simple: Gov. Doyle is in the political fight for his life. He realizes that without strong support from us, the college students across the state, he cannot hope to win. I beg you all, do not fall for this last ditch effort.

The Gov. is not interested in helping us pay for college. If he were he would have used his veto pen on the budgets passed by the legislature, or appointed Regents who were serious about keeping our school affordable. Gov. Doyle quite frankly is betting that we won't remember and that we will give him credit for "trying."

Gov. Doyle is betting that none of us will remember the promises he made 4 years ago. He is betting that we will blame the mean and nasty Republicans for passing the budgets. Well I haven't forgot, and I know who to blame. Gov. Doyle signs the budgets, he holds the most powerful veto pen in the nation, and he appoints the men and women who set our tuition rates.

Gov. Doyle, this is just too little, too late.