2017 | Week of September 25 | #1222
In the week following the Governor signing the state’s $76 billion two-year budget, it’s fair to ask, as we echo and take some liberties with Samuel Morse, “What has the legislature wrought?”
Maybe there is a budget wonk in a small back office in a government office somewhere in Madison who knows everything in this massive bill, but frankly I would doubt it. It’s a daunting task to figure out the details of a bill that allocates billions of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
That said, I want to take a bit closer look at what the legislature has wrought during this unusually protracted budget process. I’ll start with a couple of disappointments.
I am profoundly disappointed that Joint finance took out the Governor’s proposal to put some money into promoting what is known as the Success Sequence—both in public schools and in the media. The success sequence has some research behind it—which is actually kind of humorous, because I believe the Success Sequence is really just God’s plan. However, the Brookings Institute has found that if a person does the following in the order given, then he or she has vastly improved his or her chances of being successful in life. The sequence is finish school, get a job, marry, and then have children.
This sequence works because it’s God’s plan. By the way, at Wisconsin Family Council we add a couple of things as subsets to that sequence. We urge that people vet the person they think they want to marry and after marrying, especially if children are involved, that people do everything possible to stay married to the father or mother of their children. As good as the proposal is and as small-dollar as it was, $1 million over two years, the budget passed without this provision. That’s most unfortunate and quite short-sighted because this is a sequence young people need to hear and understand. Following this sequence will absolutely help reduce poverty—which would save everyone money, not to mention the good that happens to individual lives.
Another disappointment in the budget is an increase in the state’s already bloated lottery advertising budget. The governor wanted to add $3 million a year to the lottery advertising budget to increase ticket sales. Joint Finance reduced that to $1 million per year, which is what passed. By the way, Rep. Rob Hutton has introduced a bill that would cap this unconstitutional lottery advertising at $5 million per year, which once the new budget goes into effect would be over $8 million a year.
Now, positively, the budget will do away with two domestic partnership registries that came in through the state budget back in 2009 under then-Governor Jim Doyle. One is the statewide, same-sex-only domestic partnership registry that mimics marriage. The other domestic partnership registry is one for state employees, which includes public school teachers, many local government employees and others. This registry allowed a state employee to enter into a domestic partnership—either same-sex or opposite sex—for the primary purpose of the non-state employee in the partnership being able to get health insurance. This proposal has more of a direct financial hit on the state than the same-sex registry. However, both need to go. They both undermine marriage and send all the wrong messages about family formation.
Regarding marriage, experts assure me this budget also continues to remove the marriage tax penalty that over the years has happened in our state.
Another positive is that Bible and church-related camps will now have the same amount of tax-exempt land as all other camps in Wisconsin. Bible camps had been allowed 30 acres tax exempt while other camps are allowed 40. The budget equalizes them all at 40.
And finally, Joint Finance added a provision that requires the state to conduct an audit of organizations that receive Medicaid payments. Select audits done over the past couple of years have shown real fraud in how these monies are being spent, especially in family planning organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
So as is typical in a bill this size spending this much of our money, the legislature has wrought some good, some bad and some ugly. We are grateful for the good and continue to work to eliminate the bad and ugly.
For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.