Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Special interest groups show support for McCallum

While the governor’s state budget deficit proposal has been harshly criticized by some lawmakers and city officials, it has gained support from over 200 special interest groups.

Groups that have signed on to support Gov. Scott McCallum’s plan say it provides innovative solutions to the gap in state finances caused by a lagging economy.

The governor unveiled his reform package to the state Jan. 22 in response to Wisconsin’s $1.1 billion deficit, which runs until June 30, 2003. The bulkiest cuts are to local governments. McCallum proposed $1 billion per year in aid be phased out of city services like park service and garbage collection to fix the shortfall.

But some praise McCallum for sticking to his priorities of not increasing taxes and protecting the state’s education system and poor, elderly and disabled citizens when drafting the budget.

The Wisconsin Bankers Association said the budget reform package is a show of fiscal restraint, and state citizens will reap rewards down the road.

“The governor has done something that no other government has been willing to do, and that is cut back government,” said Kurt Bauer, vice president of government relations. “Times are tough, and you must cut back.”

Bauer said an important part of state budget reductions is the self-restraint McCallum exhibited by cutting his own office budget.

Unlike a corporate executive who might cut jobs but retain his or her current salary, Bauer said the governor is “walking the walk [and] talking the talk.”

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s executive director of governmental relations, Roger Cliff, said the group finds several aspects to be particularly important.

“First of all, [there are] no tax increases, and that includes the property tax, which is a major interest to the farm community,” he said.

Cliff said cuts imposed by the governor’s budget plan would mean a reduction in the size of government at the state and local levels. In addition to the budget maintaining two-thirds funding of local education, Cliff said all agencies, including the university system, will see reductions in their budgets.

“The easiest thing . . . would have been to just do across-the-board cuts, and they would have been much more severe than what’s proposed now in the education community,” Cliff said.

Wisconsin Charter School Association secretary Senn Brown said he thinks the cost of funding public schools is important to the well being of the state and reconfirms the governor’s commitment to public schools. He said it is part of the reason why he supports the budget.

“Linking this commitment to education . . . is the key,” Brown said.

The Wisconsin Health and Hospitals Association said the governor’s budget proposal is good for the state because programs that are of importance to the elderly, disabled and poor are exempt from across the board cuts.

Eric Borgerding, spokesman for the state’s Government Affairs Department, said one of the strongest aspects of the proposal is that it leaves Medicaid untouched.

Borgerding said the governor’s plan takes into consideration the recent caseload expansion by raising the Medicaid benefits.

However, the governor’s Budget Reform Bill will be tested in the state Legislature. State Democrats are holding a series of budget hearings to encourage community discussion of the proposal in cities across the state, including a hearing Feb. 11 at the Sun Prairie City Hall.

Sen. Mary Panzer, R-West Bend, views the budget cuts placed on the university as manageable.

Panzer said the 10 percent limit placed on tuition increases for UW System students is a major strength of McCallum’s package.

Many Democrats, like Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, say they see the $50 million reduction in the UW System budget as excessive.

The governor’s plan has not been introduced as a bill in the state Senate and Assembly.

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