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Other view: Pull sneaky stuff out of state budget

5:55 PM, May 8, 2013  |  Comments
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A ban on wolf hunting at night.

A favor for rent-to-own businesses.

An end to residency requirements for thousands of school and municipal workers in Milwaukee.

All of these items - and dozens more - are buried in the state budget even though they have nothing to do with state finances.

It's a common yet sneaky trick governors and top lawmakers have been pulling for three budgets now, first when Democrats had a lock on power, and now with Republicans in charge.

Prior to that, split power at the state Capitol led to both sides of the partisan divide responsibly pulling non-fiscal policy items from the state's two-year spending plan.

So much for that. And so much for Gov. Scott Walker's campaign promise to keep pure policy out of his budgets.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau identified 58 policy items "not closely related to the state's fiscal program" in the governor's budget request. The Legislature's budget committee subsequently removed only a dozen of them.

That leaves 46 items that still need to come out. The full Legislature should nix all of them before sending the budget to the governor's desk to sign. And if lawmakers fail to do that, Walker should restore his credibility on the issue by vetoing them.

"The governor campaigned on not having policy in the budget," said Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "What happened to that promise?"

"They pile things into the budget so they can hide them," Cowles said, "and they don't have to take responsibility for their action."

Cowles is right, and he deserves a lot of credit for calling out fellow Republicans for this sneaky tactic. Cowles' opposition means a lot more than Democratic complaints, given that the minority party allowed nearly as much policy into its budget the last time Democrats were in control.

These items should stand or fall on their own merits as individual bills. In fact, the State Journal editorial board supports some of the measures.

But none deserves a free pass.

That includes an item allowing police to collect DNA from suspects arrested for, but not convicted of, a felony.

That includes policy changes affecting special needs students who seek private school vouchers.

The state budget is a spending document. It shouldn't be camouflage for policy unrelated to spending.

Take all the non-fiscal stuff out.

Wisconsin State Journal

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