I just finished reading the text of Governor Doyle's State of the State address. It may be the most unintentionally funny - and sad - thing I've ever read and I'm trying to imagine the Governor getting through it without laughing.
First, Gov. Doyle tell's us that we're facing a recession and a huge state deficit that were the complete result of Washington, DC and Wall Street. The present administration had nothing to do with any of it. The fact that we have a deficit is the sole result of the economic downturn. Period. End of discussion.
I seem to remember the massive deficit projections coming out long before the financial collapse that caught us all by surprise in September. Shortly after the last budget "repair" bill was signed into law, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo stating Wisconsin still held a structural deficit of $1.682 billion dollars. That was back in May 2008.
Even then, the deficit caused by the recession was made worse by built-in budget increases and agency requests for increased spending. Contrary to the Governor's address, no significant cutting is taking place.
Back to the SOS - yes, I appreciate the irony of this acronym. Governor Doyle claims repeatedly that he cut state spending. Time and time again, he boasts of his tough decisions on what to cut and how this fixed our budget problems. I would like to repeat that we had a $1.6 billion structural deficit immediately following the last repair bill.
The simple fact is that Doyle is lying about cutting state spending. His address makes it sound as though he has taken an ax to the budget and cleared away all the dead wood. He has not. The 2005-2007 budget increased spending 6%. The 2007-2009 budget increased spending 6.6%. And the 2009-2011 state agency requests - submitted in November of 2008, nearly two months after the economic collapse began - increase state spending another 6.6%. How are those cuts, Governor Doyle?
The Governor talks a lot in this address about the importance of tough choices and making sure that Wisconsinites who have lost their jobs get back to work quickly. That should certainly be the goal of this year's legislative session, no question about it. But Doyle does not address these problems substantively. Not one bit. His solution is that President Obama and Congress are going to bail us out. They are the ones who are going to stimulate the economy so we here at the state level don't have to do a thing. He doesn't outline one thing he wants to do to attract businesses to the state in his entire address.
I couldn't find a single proposal to help the state's economic climate, despite the fact we lost 33,600 jobs in December alone. It is unimaginable that a governor could be so willfully blind to the problems in his state. The fact that Gov. Doyle does not even suggest a solution shows stunning incompetence.
At the end of his speech, the Gov. Doyle laid out five major legislative priorities. Did they have to do with creating a better business climate? No. Did they aim to reduce onerous property and income taxes in the state? No. His major goals had nothing to do with the economy.
Apparently, when faced with the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, the Governor's reaction is to push for an Autism insurance mandate - a move that would increase premiums for everyone - push for draconian anti-smoking ordinances that have negative effects on small business owners, create drunk-driving checkpoints, institute the recomendations of his Global Warming Task Force, and school funding reform.
Now, I agree we need school funding reform, vague though it may be, but what will any of the other four proposals do to help our economy? Doyle spent more than half his speech talking about the economy and didn't provide a single solution. Then, when he laid out his priorities, he wants to force all kinds of new environmental regulations on businesses that would destroy job creation in Wisconsin.
Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by anything anymore, but it still amazes me that our Governor is so willing to blame others for what happened on his watch. It amazes me that he is so willing to sit by and let Washington try and fix Wisconsin's economy. When our state needs strong, decisive leadership the most, we find nothing but cowardice from our Governor. It is going to take a long time to recover from this mess if that is the best he has to offer.