As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tours the country touting his conservative credentials while gearing up for an expected run for president, there’s a conservative question that’s nagging back home.
During his travels, Walker has bristled at what he considers some nonsensical questions from what he describes as the liberal media.
Questions about evolution.
Questions about President Barack Obama’s faith.
Questions about his bald spot.
The governor thought some of those questions were frivolous, and we don’t necessarily disagree.
But there’s a truly conservative question we believe the governor should answer: Why does Wisconsin have to make so many drastic budget cuts in order to address a projected $2.2 billion deficit?
After more than four years of Republican control in Madison, with countless legislative and executive actions taken to streamline government and ease regulation on business, create jobs and stimulate the economy, why is Wisconsin still facing huge cuts in spending on education.
Walker was outspoken about the deficit he inherited from his predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle.
It was hard to argue.
But conservatives and liberals alike don’t understand why we’re back in the hole again, according to the projections.
In a recent interview with the Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance made some interesting observations about the proposed Walker budget:
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“When you start to look at it, this current state budget, a Walker budget, and the last Doyle budget are really very similar,” Berry was quoted as saying. “They’re both borrowing for transportation, they’re both skating on thin ice as far as budget balances, they both have what CPAs call GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) deficit issues. In terms of numbers, fiscal nuts and bolts, they’re pretty similar. And that would, I think, surprise people. We seem to do the same things over and over and over again, make the same mistakes.”
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, legislators are wrangling about how best to use a projected $1.9 billion surplus — a much nicer problem, to be sure.
The fight isn’t limited to party lines, either.
There are Republicans who urge caution — and others who advocate turning back every penny of the surplus to taxpayers.
One of those give-it-all-back advocates is Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.
In a guest column in last week’s Winona Daily News, Drazkowski wrote: “This surplus amounts to $350 for every man, woman and child in the state of Minnesota. It’s clear to me that your state government is overcharging taxpayers at accelerating rates. As our economy continues to improve, the level at which we’re taking people’s money is excessive and is clearly more than needed to run our government. My preference is to give this budget surplus — your money — back to you.”
That sure sounds nice, but Minnesota may want to look at the deficit that Walker’s state is facing — after refunding more than a half-billion dollars back to taxpayers in his first term.
Both states continue to wrestle with how best — and how much — to fund overdue improvements to roads, bridges and other infrastructure that taxpayers expect government to keep safe and up-to-date.
And, in both states, there is worry about excessive borrowing to fund such public construction.
You can argue all you wish about whether Wisconsin is headed down the right path on education or environment or business incentives or tax policy or other big-picture issues.
In fact, we should be debating about those issues more and more.
Regardless, there’s a conservative question that deserves an answer: Why, after all the change and all the rancor, is Wisconsin facing a projected deficit?