Wisconsin and our neighbors

If you conclude that all the non-national political news of the nation, or at least the Midwest, is being generated in Wisconsin these days, well, that’s not entirely correct.

To the south, Illinois, one of the few states whose finances were worse than Wisconsin’s, took the raise-taxes-and-bend-over-to-the-public-employee-unions approach. And, the Chicago Tribune reports:

Think back to 1/11/11, the night Democrats in the General Assembly raised personal and corporate income taxes by 67 and 46 percent. That legislation didn’t cut spending by one dime. Never forget the assurances, though, that these tax increases would pay the state’s debts and prevent future budget deficits …

One year later, though, stand back with us and look at all their carnage:

• Earlier this month, Moody’s Investors Service cited “weak management practices” when it awarded Illinois the nation’s lowest credit rating. Standard & Poor’s added insult to injury: “If Illinois does not make meaningful changes to further align revenue and spending and address its accumulated deficit (accounts payable and general fund liabilities) for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, we could lower the rating this year. … A downgrade could also be triggered if pension funding levels continue to deteriorate or debt levels increase significantly …”

• As [state budget director] David Vaught unwittingly attests, lawmakers continue to spend too much of other people’s money. [Gov. Pat] Quinn’s office now expects this fiscal year’s supposedly balanced budget to finish $507 million in the red. That’s right, even with $7 billion a year in new revenue from their tax hikes, this crowd still can’t balance a budget.

• Let alone pay those old bills. A new report from Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka carries the headline, “Backlog persists despite new revenue.” Deadbeat Illinois owes some $8.5 billion in old bills, tax refunds, employee health insurance and interfund borrowing debts. That’s roughly one-fourth of the state’s spending this year from its general funds. …

So Vaught is more right than he may want to admit: Until Illinois lowers its overhead (pension and Medicaid costs, that’s you), even tax hikes can’t, in truth, relieve “a squeeze for everything else.

That probably won’t change until lawmakers cut their spending on that unaffordable overhead and deploy more tax hike revenue to pay old bills. Remember, the only reason Illinois has any old bills is that Springfield spent more money, and promised public employees far more in retirement perks, than revenues justified.

Worst of all, perhaps, the Democrats’ tax increases are stifling the economic growth that would boost those revenues. With their votes, they made Illinois an even higher-cost state for job creators.

After the fiscal disaster area left by Gov. James Doyle and the 2009–10 Legislature, Wisconsin’s state budget is now legally, if not actually, balanced. Illinois’ budget appears to be neither legally nor actually balanced. More than one Wisconsinites has asked why Gov. Scott Walker is being recalled and not Quinn.

A recall attempt is in the works to our east, but for reasons unrelated to state finances, reports the Detroit Free Press:

If there’s anything Bill Schuette has established in his first year as Michigan’s attorney general — besides an appetite for media attention rivaling that of Sarah Palin or Geoffrey Fieger — it’s that he won’t stand for the federal government to trample on the rights of the people of Michigan.

Unless, or course, the right in question is one that Michigan’s top law enforcement official never cared for in the first place. In which caseany pretext for ignoring, circumventing or violating the state law that guarantees it is welcome.

I speak, of course, of Schuette’s maniacal campaign to single-handedly repeal the Medical Marijuana Act that Michigan voters adopted in 2008 — by a considerably wider margin (63%-37%), it should be noted, than Schuette enjoyed in his own victory (53%-42%) over a weak Democratic opponent two years later. …

But the AG has also exploited his office to target medical marijuana users and providers — precisely the people Michigan voters sought to protect from criminal prosecution when they adopted the MMA. That’s a flagrant abuse of authority — one that undermines respect for the law in general, not just the statute Schuette seeks to subvert.

In his latest initiative, Schuette has opined that police have a legal obligation not to return pot seized from licensed medical marijuana patients because possession of marijuana is still prohibited under federal law. (Never mind that the U.S. Justice Department, which has bigger fish to fry, especially in Detroit, has made clear its lack of interest in prosecuting patients in Michigan and other states that have authorized medical marijuana.)

In fact, the AG warned in an opinion issued late last week, officers who return illegally confiscated marijuana (in seeming compliance with a provision of the MMA that specifically bars its seizure from medical users licensed by the state) are themselves risking criminal prosecution as drug dealers.

Really? And what sort of prosecutor would file charges against a police officer for that? Even Schuette isn’t that deranged. …

But more than 3 million Michigan residents have made it clear they want licensed patients to be able to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. That’s almost twice as many as voted for Schuette in 2010.

So Schuette’s campaign to emasculate the MMA isn’t just unprincipled; it’s an affront to democratic rule — and to the rule of law he took an oath to uphold.

Nothing that Walker has done as governor justifies Recallarama. An attorney general’s willful flouting of the law probably justifies a recall, since attorneys general are supposed to enforce all laws, not just the ones they like, and not just the ones floating between their ears. As for Quinn, does mere grotesque incompetence justify a recall? If it does, then since a majority of Illinois voters were stupid enough to vote for Quinn (who took office after Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption conviction), perhaps Illinois voters should recall themselves.

4 thoughts on “Wisconsin and our neighbors

    1. Ummm. ROSIE, the ‘protesters’ in Wisconsin are mevtiatod by MONEY. THEY are spoiled teachers, police, government workers, who think the PEOPLE exist to SERVE them.AND that the “services” they provide are so invaluable,they deserve to be paid MORE ON AVERAGE than the average Wisconsinite, get generous benefits, generous retirement, sick leave, health care and more. ALL the while the AVERAGE WISCONSIN citizen has to PAY their own medical, has to rely on their savings and Social Security. AND their kids still don’t get a descent education, and when you call for a cop, they are too busy writing TRAFFIC tickets to respond.Here’s the deal. PROTESTERS in MIDEAST were responding to OPPRESSIVE governments. The one that started the fire was in Tunisia. A Arab man, had his food cart conficscated, until he paid a “fine”. HE couldn’t, and in shame, he lit himself on fire.THE PROTESTERS in WISCONSIN want to be paid MORE than usual, want COLLECTIVE rights to bargain. IOW, if teachers want more money, then the DHS workers, police, fire, will all go on strike until the TAXPAYER pays them more.THE two don’t compare. AND when a state is BILLIONS in the RED with their budget, they should sacrifice before asking people who make LESS than them to pay for their extravagant benefits. That’s kinda like a former Hollywood actress and former TV talk show hostess who think her opinion matters on it, but she lives in a mansion, with armed bodyguards.

  1. a few cotemnms:1 – I thought it was the presses job to “speak truth to power?” Now, you have the power speaking the truth to the press. What a sad state of affairs we’ve come to where the press has to be schooled by the NJ Governor about who is really corrupt in the system.2 – I can’t believe 60 Minutes of all shows is airing something like this. The bastion of mindless liberalism actually does a news story about the collapsing economy rather than some fluff piece about the latest brain-dead celebrity. Will wonders never cease?

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