Wisconsin State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), the assistant minority leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly, has proposed legislation that would change how policy provisions in Wisconsin state budgets are dealt with by the Wisconsin State Legislature, but the proposed legislation would not outright ban policy provisions in budgets.
Currently, all provisions in the Wisconsin budget, whether it be budget provisions or policy provisions that have little or nothing to do with the budget, are handled by the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC). If Shankland’s bill were to become law, policy provisions of the budget would be handled by standing committees of the Wisconsin State Legislature responsible for the area of policy in question.
Maybe it’s because I’m from Illinois, and I have zero tolerance for any kind of BS from politicians, but I think Shankland’s bill doesn’t go far enough. In fact, if I were a member of the Wisconsin State Legislature, I’d vote against Shankland’s bill for not going far enough to crack down on Scott Walker’s abuse of the Wisconsin state budget process.
Wisconsin Governors of recent times, most notably Jim Doyle and Scott Walker, have used the state budget to enact policy measures with little oversight. Shankland’s bill would give Walker, and any Wisconsin Governor who holds the office after Walker leaves it, explicit power to enact policy provisions that have no place in the state budget and should be considered by the Legislature as stand-alone legislation. Currently, Walker doesn’t have explicit power to propose policy in the state budget, but there’s no legal ban on the practice. The only way that the Wisconsin state budget process is going to be free of policy provisions that aren’t fiscal in nature is for the practice of the governor proposing policy provisions in the state budget to be explicitly banned. State governors shouldn’t be using the budget process to legislate from the governor’s mansion. In my home state of Illinois, the state government is currently shut down because a Republican governor is using the state budget to try to force a Democratic-controlled state legislature to support non-fiscal policy items that the governor supports. What Shankland’s bill in Wisconsin would do is effectively condone that practice in Wisconsin instead of prohibiting it there.
One can push for all of the accountability for bad ideas that one wants, but they’re still bad ideas.