Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Diamond Jim swings...and misses....

To hear Diamond Jim tell it last night, everything's going to be OK, we're gonna tax those rich bastards and smokers even more, and with Obama's fat check on the way, we might miss a snack or two but we'll still be able to live pretty high on the hog. Say WHAT? Now wait a minute here. The guv spoke for about 35 minutes last night. I didn't have a stopwatch on it, but I'm thinking about 3 minutes total was very general discussion about what might get cut to make up the 5-billion-dollar defecit...and 32 minutes was about all the stuff we're NOT going to cut.
I know politicians don't like to hand out bad news, and even when they have to, it's always candy-coated to make it as palatable as possible. But last night's biennial budget address induced a sugar high. No more QEO's. Banished. Plenty of money for the big University on the other end of State Street (a good thing); money for the first set of "Doyle Scholars" or whatever they're calling the kids who promised to get good grades and stay out of trouble so they could get a slot at a Wisconsin college or university. Yes, the good times will continue to roll.
So who's comin' out on the short end here? Well, the rich folks of course; and .... well....we'll probably have to cut a whole lot of state employees, but let's not talk about that.
A few other observations: just as in Washington, there's clearly a huge partisan divide in the state legislature. Every time Diamond Jim talked up one of his pet programs, the Democrats would leap to their feet and applaud. The Republicans would sit on their hands and examine their shoelaces. I even saw one of them fiddling with his BlackBerry while the Dems were cheering. Before the broadcast on public TV, one of the local stations had a set-up piece live from the capitol with the requisite Republican and Democratic point-counterpointers. The Democratic guy, Mike Sheridan, said it wouldn't be an easy couple of years ahead. The Republican lady, Miss Kitty (she who invoked the name of Saint Vincent Lombardi when shilling for a bogus "we demand the NFL Network bill" a few months ago), said the new budget would mean more taxes, taxes, taxes. Suffice it to say no new ground was broken.
Then, after Diamond Jim talked and pressed the flesh leaving the chamber, the folks at Public TV did a brief analysis with Todd Berry of the state taxpayer alliance. He said what I was thinking during the speech....pretty much what Diamond Jim is proposing to do, is to move a few things around in the budget, plug some holes with the Obama money, and push the problem into the next biennium. Except you couldn't hear what Mr. Berry was saying very well. The sound person had the audio mix so badly screwed up it sounded like Berry was speaking from a closet in a noisy bar a few blocks away. Too bad they couldn't have created that effect for Diamond Jim.

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