Friday, December 11, 2009

Grothman The Grinch

Quick: who’s better at fake outrage - politicians or talk-show hosts? Macht nichts, as my mother’s mother often said.

Glenn Grothman, a Republic from West Bend (Rush calls it the “Democrat Party”, so I’ll return the favor with the “Republic Party”) is outraged about WHEDA spending 14 hundred bucks on flowers for its employee Christmas party.
I know, they call it a “holiday party” in Madison.

WHEDA is the state agency that helps find low income housing for the poor. A week ago today Grothman, who’s on the WHEDA board, sent a super-snotty letter to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, calling the expense ree-donk-you-luss.

He suggested the money would have been better spent as a donation to the Salvation Army.

And, for once, instead of kowtowing and groveling, the folks who run WHEDA essentially told Grothman to blow it out his…..bee-hind. Not one cent of taxpayer money was used.


Grothman is one of the many people who apparently think government employees should be exempted from the perks and motivators connected with any similar job in the private sector. He grumbles about the “waste of taxpayer money”.

He should know better. Grandstander!

As I understand it, the folks at WHEDA aren’t state employees in the same sense as plow truck drivers, prison guards, and state senators and their staffs. WHEDA doesn’t take money in taxes from the state. It sells bonds to raise the money to run the operation, loaning money to low-income families and boosting economic development. WHEDA charges fees like any other lender. They run a 25-million-dollar budget.

Disclosure: my wife and daughter both work for UW-Health, so they’re “state employees”.

State employees deserve the same kind of perks and motivators that private-sector employees do. It annoys me no end when I hear whining about some state or municipal employee going to a convention, whether it’s in Boise, Beaver Dam, or Bora Bora. So what?!

And if said state/municipal employee at a convention elects to spend some of those “taxpayer-paid salary dollars” at a local night-spot, to take in a play or performance, dine at a fine restaurant, or buy some memento of their visit, I’ll join the local Convention and Visitors Bureau or Hotel Association in thanking them for stimulating the economy.

Every worker needs incentives, whether they earn their pay with their head or their hands. The attitude that “government employees” shouldn’t keep up with the latest thinking at a convention, or be given a night out on the town for a job well done, is just plain wrong.

I wonder how the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau feels about their state senator’s attitude. I’ll bet The Flowersmith, Bits ‘n Pieces, Blossom Florists, or any other florist in Grothman’s home town of West Bend would love to take an order for 14 hundred bucks.


  1. Not one cent of taxpayer money was used.

    WHEDA is able to sell those bonds b/c the State of Wisconsin guarantees them. So yes, there are no DIRECT taxpayer funds used; but the favorable rates the bonds enjoy are a result of implicit taxpayer liability.

    It would be out-of-bounds for me to complain that Joe Doakes, an employee of DofCorrections, spent $150.00 on dinner and drinks at Angel's Flight while on State business--from his personal account.

    It would NOT be out-of-bounds for me to scream like Hell if Joe then expensed that to the taxpayer if the per diem was $75.00.

    In the macro (underline macro), State/Muni/Fed employees are paid better for comparable work than are private-sector employees--and that does not take into account Gummint benefit programs. (See BLS).

    Seems upside down to me.....

  2. I don't know about other agencies but at the UW-Madison, the per diem meal money is $40 a day total for all meals. So in Dad29's scenario, if I spent $150 for dinner plus whatever else I spent for breakfast and lunch, I would only be reimbursed $40 period. They're pretty tight about reimbursements for other expenses (flights, hotels, etc.) too, nothing unreasonable, but the limits are there. And we get our most of our revenue from fees for services, research money, and
    non tax sources as opposed to state tax dollars. Like everywhere else, our fee for service business has been down so we've cut back and travel expenses have been curtailed quite a bit.