I'm reading over Doyle's budget plan and shaking my head - because, overall, it actually seems to make sense. Especially when compared to California's current budget gridlock, this is particularly refreshing.
Instead of the tired old (typically Republican) insistence on across the board tax cuts being the savior of us all, there's actually a proposal to raise taxes on those enjoying the top 1% income bracket. There are spending cuts which may result in some painful decisions for the affected organizations, but may well be necessary for the time being. He's also included funding for commuter rail (praise be that this is finally catching on nationwide). And the icing on this money cake? A cigarette tax hike and another proposed statewide smoking ban.
Two things in the budget likely to raise the most hackles are the income tax hike and the early release of certain "low risk" felons. The former strikes me as a non-issue - those people bringing in the most money should be taxed proportionally. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, took umbrage at this proposal, however, saying that "the income tax increase would strike at small business owners who already have difficulty maintaining or creating jobs." Maybe I'm missing something, but how exactly would this hike for the top 1% of earners affect small businesses? I'm willing to bet that most of them don't make enough to qualify for this in the first place. If someone can better explain this to me, though, I'm all ears.
And as for the early release program, done with the appropriate amount of thoughtful consideration, I can see this as being the right (if most controversial) step. Our prisons are wildly overpopulated as it is, and letting so-called low risk inmates out early could help solve that problem and save the state money. The trick, of course, lies in making sure these people have proper support once on the outside, so that they aren't as likely to reoffend.
I'm hopeful that Wisconsin can get this budget into place and make the necessary choices and moves to see our state through the economic downturn with as little pain as possible. It helps that we don't have the ridiculous 2/3rds majority rule for passage as in California, but we do have bitter partisan battles, so who knows. One thing's for sure: We need smart, swift action to stay on track - not petty power struggles and old, tired ideas.