Options for Budget Solutions

  • Budget

Wisconsin Republicans claim that the state is broke and they have to make “hard choices” to balance the budget. They have no choice but to cut school funding and other social programs.

Whenever I hear someone say we have no options, I get suspicious. Either they don’t want to see options or they lack the ability to see alternatives. There are always options. Better, more creative leadership would “think outside the box” and provide a range of options to solve problems. If the Republicans would take off the ideological blinders they might see some of them. May I suggest a few budget options?

  1. Collect unpaid taxes from the deadbeats! Wisconsin loses an estimated $1.6 billion every year in uncollected taxes. Collecting taxes due is not an increase in taxes.
  2. Collect taxes from the 60% of corporations operating in Wisconsin who pay NO income taxes. These companies benefit from the roads, police, fire, and other public services. They should contribute. I think GE or Bank of America could afford to help out before we cut our schools.
  3. Cut lower priority spending. Any rational ranking of government services would place education toward the top. As an example, maybe we should cut the Department of Tourism before education. The tourist industry could probably do its own advertising.
  4. Stop contracting out government services. We pay more, for less service, when private, for-profit companies replace public employees in providing services. It is not true that the private sector can do it better or cheaper. Harper’s magazine sites studies that the federal government pays 87% more for contracted work.
  5. Cut the counterproductive spending. It is well known that preventive social services such as prenatal care, Head Start, and youth after school programs save money in the long run. It is better to provide education than to fill up prisons. It is time we seriously reduced our prison expenses.
  6. Control medical insurance costs. Government in Wisconsin spends billions of dollars for public health care programs and employee health benefits. Controlling these costs and the extremely high cost of health insurance would provide large savings for the state budget.
  7. Get real about business incentives. There is little evidence that tax breaks for businesses create jobs or do anything for the economy other than reduce public revenues. If trickle down economics really worked, we would have had boom times since Ronald Reagan!
  8. Cut the budget band-aids. We need real, comprehensive, sustainable budget solutions. Governor Walker has not solved the budget problems. He has applied shortsighted band-aids by cutting public employees, schools, and other public services. After four years we still have large budget deficits.

We need to get real about government and taxes. Government is an essential part of our society. It is the necessary rule maker and referee. It is a major consumer, employer, and provider of services. Government must have sufficient revenue to do its job. That means taxes. Will we collect these taxes fairly from everyone? Will we rationally prioritize our need for good government? Will we look at all the options and find real solutions? Or, will we continue with political posturing, ideological blinders, and budget band-aides?