State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau announced the shortfall is an incredible $652.3 million. It’s a huge problem that needs to be addressed and with a proper solution.
Have you seen the cost of gasoline? At $3.20/gallon and climbing, the price is the highest ever in Wisconsin.
Have you traveled on the Interstate lately? A myriad of potholes and huge divots, the Interstate and many Wisconsin roads are in deplorable condition.
Have you renewed your license or registration lately? Did you notice the $10 increase in license renewal, and the $20 increase in registration renewal?
Connect the dots: the large revenue shortfall, the high cost of gasoline, roads that look like minefields, and increased fees. Keep those issues in mind as you consider Governor Doyle’s proposal to repair the state budget.
Part of the governor’s plan to fix the budget shortfall is to raid the state’s Transportation Fund of $243 million and transfer it to the General Fund. The Transportation Fund is financed through the state gas tax, one of the highest in the nation, and driver license fees and registration fees. The revenue is used for road projects.
That means less money will be available for work on Wisconsin roads at a time they are in desperate need of attention.
Once again, Governor Doyle has dug into the pockets of taxpayers and his bag of tricks and pulled out an oldie, but not a goodie: raiding the Transportation Fund to plug a spending hole.
During February 2005, Governor Doyle presented his 2005-07 state budget to the Legislature including a $180 million transfer from the state's Patient Compensation Fund and another $250 million from the transportation fund.
After the 2005-07 state budget was approved by the Legislature, Governor Doyle partially vetoed 752 words out of a large section of the budget to create a 20-word sentence. The result was a raid of $427-million from the Transportation Fund, an appropriation the Legislature did not authorize.
The 2007-09 state budget transfers $200 million from the state's Patient Compensation Fund to the general fund. The Wisconsin Medical Society is now suing the state because of the raid that could be illegal.
When citizens pay a tax or fee designated for a specific purpose, like the gas tax for roads, they expect the funds will be used in that manner. The use of funds for other programs or services other than those the funding was intended for is a serious breach of faith and trust with the public. These raids are wrong and must stop.
This legislative session, a constitutional amendment, Assembly Joint Resolution 34 (AJR 34) to prevent budget raids was approved by the state Assembly, 91-6. AJR 34 would prohibit state lawmakers from raiding segregated funds to fill budget holes and prevent funds from being used outside their original intent.
This is the first consideration of AJR 34. The amendment must still pass the state Senate in this legislative session, then be approved by both houses of the Legislature in the next legislative session before going to voters in a statewide referendum. It is highly unlikely the state Senate will schedule AJR 34 for a vote before the current session ends Thursday.
Wisconsin got into its current budget mess because the state taxes, spends, and borrows too much. Governor Doyle’s plan to fix the state budget is to increase the hospital tax and raid the Transportation Fund. Raising taxes and raiding funds are the wrong solutions. Think about that the next time you fill up your tank or hit a pothole.