TABOR backers reach a new low with an invitation-only "public hearing" on their latest proposal.
No testimony for you!
The Capital Times
It is always difficult to determine when you have "heard it all" about any topic.
But it is pretty safe to say that the "heard it all" moment with regard to the decline of Wisconsin politics came when proponents of a move to amend the state Constitution announced that a key hearing on the proposal would be held on an "invitation-only" basis. The amendment in question would place strict new limits on the ability of state and local governments to raise revenues for providing public services.
The management of the amendment debate speaks volumes about the dramatic flaws in this proposal that a clueless cabal of Republican legislators has been trying to advance under different names for the better part of two years. The proposal was formerly peddled as the "taxpayer bill of rights" or TABOR - until voters in states that had passed TABOR amendments began revolting because of the damage they had done to education, public safety and social services. Now the measure has been "re-branded" as the taxpayer protection amendment.
But neither a new name nor a closed hearing can cover up the flaws in this corporate-sponsored proposal to take away the ability of elected officials to develop budgets that reflect the needs of the communities they serve.
It should come as no surprise that state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, and state Rep. Jeff Wood, R-Chippewa Falls, the prime sponsors of the amendment, were also the organizers of Wednesday's invitation-only "hearing."
Grothman and Wood are not interested in developing a sound proposal. They merely want to advance the political agenda of the state's top corporate lobbying group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, with which both men are closely aligned.
WMC has long fought to shift the state's tax burden off the corporations it represents and onto the shoulders of working families. This amendment is the latest front in that fight.
As such, WMC is campaigning hard for the amendment, as is a national group that represents corporate interests, Americans for Prosperity. Both organizations want to get the amendment approved quickly by both houses of the Legislature, without much scrutiny, and certainly without much input from the local and state officials who would have to deal with the mess it would create.
Their targets at this point are a handful of Republican senators who have refused to sign on as supporters of the amendment: Carol Roessler of Oshkosh, Robert Cowles of Green Bay, Luther Olsen of Berlin, Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and Ron Brown of Eau Claire.
The five wavering senators have already heard from local officials in their districts who say the amendment is a very bad idea.
The last thing that WMC, Grothman or Wood wanted was an open hearing featuring an honest discussion of the proposed amendment. That would only have confirmed the concerns of Roessler, Cowles, Olsen, Kapanke and Brown about the damage it would do.
So Grothman and Wood are trying to have an invitation-only debate.
Legislators who believe it is their job to represent the citizens of Wisconsin, as opposed to the agenda of the special interest lobbies, should refuse to engage in this charade. Whether they support this amendment or not, no honest legislator can vote to amend the Wisconsin Constitution under circumstances such as this.
(This article originally appeared on the editorial page of the Capital Times.)
February 19, 2006
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