March 13, 2011
By Bill Kraus
Now that the 1959 battle over public employee unions is mostly over, the trenches are being dug for the next, bigger fight which will include a rerun of the merger wars of 1941.
What we are in for is a war with more fronts than the island hopping of the early 1940s--a little policy and lots of money at stake.
The big battles will revolve around the five major parts of the state budget which eat up 80 percent of the money. At the state level this budget is about dispensing money to others; it’s benefit driven. One step down where the benefits are disbursed the spending is labor driven.
The big five are (1) aid to K-12 education, most for teachers’ salaries (2) shared revenues to local governments, a lot of which goes for fire fighters and police officers (3) University of Wisconsin, money for professors, tuition aids, and lots of other good stuff (4) prisons, and (5) medicaid, where the number of supplicants has gone from 200,000 to 800,000, the frugality destroyer.
The increases in costs all of the big five are facing are driven by something over which the state has little or no control: the cost of health care.
The failure to get a handle on health care costs can be attributed to factors including a long history of not facing up to this money eating monster. Universal health care was to be a part of the Roosevelt New Deal, but war came along and postponed this idea for almost a decade. When President Truman put health care back on the agenda, he ran into opposition from the American Medical Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chambers’ leaders didn’t get the message when General Motors told them that they were spending more on Blue Cross than for steel. Ideological deafness.
This didn’t matter much in the post-war world where ours was the only economic game in town. But in today’s flat world the fact that the U.S. hasn’t put a lid on things ranging from malpractice awards to technological marvels which extend life and improve treatment and diagnoses at a very high cost has damaged our ability to compete against first-world countries where health care costs less and produces better results.
Putting health care costs aside, which is about all the state government can do about them despite the indirect devastation they are wreaking on state government costs, the next few months are going to be about cutting spending, setting priorities, and getting deficit free by June 30.
Some of these cuts will be offset by increased spending in areas where the crucial infrastructure is in disrepair and where investments and tax cuts which are thought to be needed to rebuild the Wisconsin economy. The object of these initiatives is more jobs and increased tax revenues. Unfortunately neither are likely to be realized in the short term when the cost cutting and program eliminating pain is being dispensed.
It is not going to be pretty. Due to the concessions by public unions recently, their members are going to be important contributors to reducing costs in their several departments. Once those savings are banked, the balance of the revenue shortfall is going to have to be made up with cuts in some programs and elimination of others.
I will be surprised if the legislators’ choices are all lockstep, party line either. Geography will be in play as well as special interests and individual legislators' hidden agendas.
There may even be some bipartisanship on display in this unhappily polarized era where compromise is demonized instead of idolized.
post a letter about this blog »
Health care is big issue. Look at candidate contributor lists to find Aurora near the top.
Look at Badger Care recepients and find that Aurora's wage laborers are there.
Big health care company has its employees on Badger Care.
Why is this data not in the public domain?
Look at your medical care statements carefully because no Wisconsin department looks at medical billing.
I saved my employer over $750 by sending false bills back to Aurora.
Look for a construction site and a new Aurora building may be there.
Why do we not see the elephant in the room?
-Robert Litzau | Milwaukee, Wisconsin | March 14, 2011
Call it what it is: Walker is reviving McCarthyism.
Walker and the Tea Party types are resurrecting an ugly part of our political past. They have corporate media on their side as they spew out pithy catchphrases that play into the imaginations of those living in fear and anger.
-Franz Fripplfrappl | Madison | March 14, 2011
Speaking of "compromised", I still can't find a single article in the Cap Times or WSJ about "Randy Hopper" and his 25 year old lobbyist squeeze.
Compromising? I'd say so.
"Professional Journalism" compromised? Bill, how can I know what to think unless the WSJ writes an article explaining both sides? You know, the front side and the back side of the lobbyist? You know, the wife's point of view vs. the lobbyist's point of view? Where can I get both sides of the issue, Bill?
It's apparent that "compromise" doesn't include a tax hike on high income people in your compromised world. No, all the "compromisin'" is against those who have relatively little.
-Tim | Barron, WI | March 14, 2011
I have contacted my representative about another labor issue: that of Wisconsin as an At Will work state. As the awareness of the power of labor grows the broader base of workers has to be addressed.
If this stops with the teachers and state workers as being "all about me" rather than these larger issues that Bill talks about with health care the moment will have been wasted.
Think back a couple years when the Hispanic population was in the street wearing white and number half a million. The story went virtually unmentioned on big tv.
But think of what that would have meant if the white people that are energized now saw the larger picture of the civil rights issues involved at the time.
It can't be "all about me" any more.
-Lon Ponschock | Appleton, WI | March 14, 2011
As usual this is more good sounding gabbleflab from Kraus. The one thing he does not mention is raising revenues, i.e. taxes.
Pretty hard to balance a budget when you give one kid a giant raise in his allowance and then expect the rest of the family to go hungry. Walker now, and Doyle before him, have been handing out the candy store to their pals but always want the shared sacrifice to come from the bottom of the economic ladder. Walker hands it out one way, Doyle did it another, but neither of them did, or will create jobs that lead to increased revenue and therefore an easier job of balancing the budget.
Kraus, like all good Republicans, just can't seem to say the word "tax" without kicking in the gag reflex.
-Griebnotz Doerkpfester | Happily No Longer Living In Walkerville, WI. | March 14, 2011
It just amazes my that if health care costs are breaking our state budget, why didn't our republican caucus in washington lobby hard for universal healthcare. If cost controls are needed on local property taxes let's go back 40 years and let corporations pay their fair share. It wasn't until corporate tax breaks were handed out that local governments found it necessary to countinually raise the property tax rate to coincide with the drop in state shared revenue.
-Dole O'Mite | Oconomowoc, WI | March 14, 2011