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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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McCallum: Completely out of control

Senator Chuck Chvala says Gov. McCallum’s proposed budget fix is “dead on arrival.” It sure as hell better be, because right now the budget is completely out of control.

McCallum?s proposal includes cuts to shared revenues for local governments and a huge hit on the UW System. There has already been talk in some circles about the feasibility of raising tuition by over 10 percent. That’s a scary prospect.

Gov. McCallum basically said he was happy about the $1.1 billion budget deficit because it was giving him an opportunity to further his agenda. This proposal makes obvious what his agenda is — cutting where money is most needed and leaving the pork for his contributors to gnaw on.

While his plan calls for phasing out shared revenues for local governments over the next three years (Dane County would lose all of its $5.5 million immediately), it keeps many tax breaks for corporations. The state budget has a property-tax exemption for computers, which totals $158.2 million over the next two years.

Enterprise zones, which are set to give away over $100 million in tax credits to businesses, have also been established. If these giveaways were eliminated from the budget, we would be almost a quarter of the way to fixing the budget. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that McCallum has received over $681,267 in campaign contributions from the same business interests that benefit from these tax giveaways.

This is just the beginning of the process to correct the budget, so it’s hard to get a sense of what the final product will be. McCallum is trying to have the Joint Finance Committee take this issue up and vote on it without having any new public hearings. This is completely unacceptable because, for all practical purposes, this is a new budget that’s being put together.

Where would the money come from for Dane County to deal with the implications of McCallum’s plan? Dane County’s Department of Administration has written a paper citing where cuts in the county’s budget could come from. Specific programs that were mentioned in connection with the budget cuts include emergency-shelter vouchers for families with dependent children and single women, Interim Assistance (which provides cash and medical payments for up to 115 adults with disabilities each month) and home-care services for seniors. The parks department, the sheriff’s department and the zoo were also mentioned for potential cuts in general-purpose revenues.

We have to be very careful not to cut off services from those who need them most. In the county’s budget, worthy funding requests were already cut to stay at the 4.55 percent levy rate self-imposed by County Executive Kathleen Falk.

It’s one cheap shot after another from McCallum. In 1994, Dane County entered a partnership with the state of Wisconsin to keep the World Dairy Expo in Madison. The cost was approximately $20 million, and the state was going to pay the county in installments of $240,000 per year for 20 years. Now, Gov. McCallum is reneging on the state’s commitment to the World Dairy Expo as he simultaneously cuts the county’s funding by $5.5 million.

The state also has non-funded mandates that it imposes on local governments. Dane County spends millions of dollars each year on these mandates.

In the upcoming weeks, the state will be looking at how to repair the budget. Any way you look at it, it’s going to be very difficult.

There are much more fitting places to come up with the $1.1 billion than the bulk of what McCallum is proposing. According to State Senator Fred Risser, we could save $100 million by reducing the yearly income-tax reduction.

We could also find a sizable chunk in the State Transportation Budget, which is set to spend $1.6 billion over the next 10 years on road projects despite concerns about affordability from road-building advocates. Once again, it should come as no surprise that McCallum’s campaign has received over $98,772 from the transportation industry.

The only decent part of McCallum’s proposal was to cut the increase in the state corrections department. At a time when the state puts more money into corrections than education, it’s an obvious choice for immediate cuts. Let’s keep that portion of the plan and scrap the rest. The focus needs to be on getting rid of the governor’s pork money that’s in the budget instead of slamming local governments and the UW system.

Echnaton Vedder ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in botany. He represents District 5 on the Dane County Board.

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