Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pork and slime: Another day in Madison

Wisconsin's prince of slime, Jimmy Doyle, woes and moans over a projected $6.6 billion dollar budget defecit.

Jimmy -- heaven forbid that anyone call him James E. Doyle, jr. -- lays on the guilt trip that times are tough. User fees will increase, services will be curtailed and even essential state employees will be furloughed. Cue the drama! Oh, the pain we must all bear!

Now, my late mom would say, "You have to spend money to make money" and I don't object if there's a return on our investment. But don't hand us crap about how bad the state's finances are and then go out on a spending spree.

The Wisconsin State Journal caught Jimmy Boy and his majority pals in Madison with their pants and panties down:

It's hard to take state lawmakers seriously when they talk about how
difficult the state budget is when they're splurging on pet projects. Just look
at the laundry list of earmarks Democrats who control the Legislature's budget
committee slipped into the budget in the middle of the night last week before
quickly advancing the state's two-year spending plan:

• $28 million in state-funded borrowing for a nursing building on the UW-Madison campus -- something the university didn't ask for or prioritize.

• $5 million for the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

• $500,000 for an opera house in Oshkosh that was already being repaired without help from the state.

• $100,000 to restore a stone barn in Oconto County.

• $50,000 for playground equipment in a Beloit park.

The list goes on and on. And most of the dozens of last-minute earmarks benefit the districts of committee members or the districts of vulnerable incumbents.

Some of these projects may be worthy. But they can hardly be justified as essential in the face of a record state budget shortfall.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, tried to defend the excessive earmarks during a meeting with the State Journal editorial board Wednesday. The two men chair the Legislature's budget committee. Pocan said the earmarks attached to the budget last week represent only a tiny fraction of the state's overall spending.

But what Pocan ignores is that these pet projects are hugely symbolic, leading to public distrust and disgust.

Ordinary citizens will ask themselves: Why should I have to sacrifice for the state through service cuts and higher taxes if somebody else is getting $13 million for an armory in Wisconsin Rapids, $500,000 for an environmental center to serve Monona and Madison, $50,000 for a shooting range in Eau Claire County and $46,000 for subsidized recycling bins in Wrightstown.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that 29 earmarks were for more than $100,000:

$44.5 million, mostly in bonds, for a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire education building; represented by Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire).

$13 million for the Wisconsin Rapids armory; represented by Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), who is on the committee, and Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids).

$28 million in bonds for a School of Nursing facility at the UW-Madison; Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit), a nurse who sits on the committee, has long backed her profession in the Legislature.

$6.6 million for a Yahara River project in Dane County; the county is represented mostly by Democrats, including the committee's co-chairmen, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona).

$5 million for the Bradley Center Sports and Entertainment Corp. in downtown Milwaukee; represented by Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Leon Young (D-Milwaukee).

$4 million for planning a joint museum for the State Historical Society and Department of Veterans Affairs; an area served by Pocan, Miller and other Dane County legislators would benefit.

Up to $1.25 million for Manitowoc Road in Bellevue; represented by Sen. Alan Lasee (R-De Pere) and Rep. Ted Zigmunt (D-Francis Creek).

$800,000 for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin; the center has locations throughout the state.

Up to $500,000 for Washington Street in Racine; Democrats Sen. John Lehman, a committee member, and Rep. Robert Turner represent the area.

$500,000 for an environmental center in a park that borders Madison and Monona; the two cities are represented by the committee's co-chairmen.

$500,000 for the Oshkosh Opera House; Republican Sen. Randy Hopper and Rep. Gordon Hintz, a Democrat, represent Oshkosh.

$500,000 for Eco Park in La Crosse; represented by Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse) and committee member Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).

Up to $430,000 for Highway X in Chippewa County; represented by Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls) and Rep. Kristen Dexter (D-Eau Claire).

Up to $400,000 for State St. in Racine; represented by Lehman and Turner.

$300,000 for the AIDS Network in Madison; represented by Pocan and Senate President Fred Risser (D-Madison).

$250,000 for a bridge on S. Reid Road in Rock County; Robson and Rep. Chuck Benedict (D-Beloit).

$250,000 for the Madison Children's Museum; represented by Pocan and Risser.

$125,000 to remodel an Eau Claire library; represented by Kreitlow and Dexter.

$100,000 for Huron Road in Bellevue; represented by Lasee and Zigmunt.

$100,000 for the Stone Barn historic site in Oconto County; represented by Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), who sits on the committee, and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette).

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