2017 | Week of March 13 | #1194
In one of his classic wry statements, former President George W. Bush once remarked about the budget, “It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.” Isn’t that the truth? Government budgets can be absolutely mind-boggling.
As ornery and as irritating as understanding a state budget can be, it’s important that we have at least a vague idea of how the government is spending our money and a more precise idea of certain particulars.
In Wisconsin, Governor Walker gave his budget address on February 8. The two-year, 2017-2018 budget as proposed by the governor has numbers galore, but I always look at the bottom line first. And this new budget tells me, we are looking to spend $76.4 billion, yes, that’s billion with a “b,” over the next two years, which is an increase over the last budget.
As a little snapshot, just three areas comprise over $51 billion of the total $76 billion—those areas are Health Services which includes Medicaid, $24.5 billion, Public Instruction, $14.2 billion, and the UW System, $12.4 billion.
With that overview, let’s zero in on some much smaller numbers and more precise ideas in this proposed budget. I think in general Governor Walker has recognized that marriage is good for Wisconsin and is doing several things in this budget to promote it. Since marriage is the engine that drives the economic train, that’s a really good approach.
First, the Governor is proposing that the marriage tax penalty be completely eliminated. The previous budget got started on that; this one appears to finish it. The idea is to not put more burden on married people than on single people in the tax code. Doing so becomes a disincentive for people to marry or stay married.
Also in this budget, the Governor is allocating $1 million for a public campaign to promote the “Success Sequence.” In sociological terms, the Success Sequence is a research-based approach to making wise choices in a particular order that is more likely than other approaches and choices to lead to future success. The Success Sequence is basically finish school, get a job, marry, and then have kids.
The idea is that if people don’t follow that order, they are much more likely to short-circuit their future and not be successful. Frankly, I think this is basically God’s sequence for success. Of course it’s not spelled out that way in the Bible, but the ideas are certainly there. God’s plan is for people to be educated and trained in a job and to work. He also definitely created child bearing to be within the confines of His design for marriage.
I also think there should be a couple of sub-points in this sequence. First, thoroughly vet the person you are thinking of marrying. Doing so can help to insure a marriage that will go the distance. Second, once you are married, do everything you can to stay married to that person, especially if there are children involved.
In addition to these pro-family initiatives, several of the Governor’s proposals in his Wisconsin Works for Everyone campaign are designed to promote work in order to qualify for welfare benefits. This is very pro-family. Most women aren’t interested in marrying men who aren’t employed. Getting men employed is important in promoting marriage. The idea would be to begin increasing the marriage rate and decreasing the number of babies born to single moms—both of which would bode well for individuals and our entire state.
Yes, budgets have lots of numbers. And all of those numbers deal with funding what someone thinks is important. In this case, Governor Walker is saying he thinks marriage and family is important. It’s true that government policies can’t really fix our very real and very significant marriage and family problems, but they can at a minimum do no harm and can, as this budget does, even promote and incentivize the behavior that produces the best results for individuals and ultimately for our entire state. Encouraging people to marry and to have children after marriage are two of the best things the governor can do in a budget with lots of numbers.
For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”