Franklin’s state Senator sides with Democrats on state budget

The state Senate Friday finally approved the state budget, 19-14, with all Republicans voting for it except one: Dave Craig.

Craig voted with all Democrats against it.

From Craig’s e-newsletter:

Senator Craig Votes NO on 2017-19 Budget

Today, the State Senate took up the State Budget.

While this budget contains positive provisions like finally repealing the rest of our prevailing wage law, a reform I have long supported, it fails in its primary function – to appropriately limit the size, and thus the role, of government in our lives. With that in mind, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to bring forward more reforms to our agencies and the commonsense principle of zero-based budgeting that families and businesses practice every day.

We in the legislature have an indicting audit of the DOT staring us in the face, demanding reform. While the administration has made positive steps to repair the agency, it is clear the legislature must advance aggressive reforms in that agency and others. Doing so will make government better today and set the stage for a better budget next biennium.

When Governor Walker released his budget in February, I was cautiously optimistic. I was encouraged by nearly $600 million in tax and fee reductions along with substantive welfare reforms, the repeal of prevailing wage requirements for state building projects and state highway projects, and regulatory relief like the REINS Act. I was discouraged by the substantial spending increases within the budget further expanding government and increasing the fiscal commitment of taxpayers going forward.

In April, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) decided to remove 83 non-fiscal policy items. Some of these 83 items were good conservative policies. These policies ranged from the immediate repeal of prevailing wage, an occupational license review council, and the repeal of mandatory project labor agreements with municipalities.

Throughout the JFC process, I saw less willingness to move back towards the Governor’s original proposal limiting the size of government and crafting structural reforms of government to ensure that my constituents can be confident they are getting the most efficient, prudent, and responsible government possible. Therefore, I introduced Senate Bill 337 to move back to zero-based budgeting, a practice used by families all over Wisconsin, examining all money spent by state government.

The Legislative Audit Bureau’s (LAB) Audit of the State Highway Program was revealing. This scathing audit revealed the Department of Transportation (DOT), on numerous occasions, failed to meet statutorily required duties and department policy guidelines in regards to their operations. Over the ten-year period of the audit, 363 contracts received only one bid each. The LAB found $289.7 million in lost savings due to a failure by the Department to meet its own performance goals.

This audit only highlighted approximately half of the DOT.

The audit prompted me to author several bills to reform the DOT. Senate Bill 143 would require the state auditor to appoint an inspector general to operate within the DOT. The inspector general would be accountable to the State Legislature and be a proactive force to root out fraud, waste, and abuse. Senate Bill 80 would grant local governments input on roundabout construction within their community. This legislation reverts authority back to local officials and away from bureaucrats in Madison. Roundabouts can be more expensive and sometimes cause more accidents than traditional four-way stops. It is prudent to restore this regulation to communities who know their traffic best.

I also co-authored omnibus reform legislation to reform the Department in Senate Bill 374. One provision is to “swap” a portion of federal funds within local road projects with state DOT dollars. This would remove the burden and expense of federal regulations from local highway projects and result in substantial taxpayer savings. Another provision would grant the DOT multiple options for project delivery (i.e. design-build, construction manager-general contractor.) These changes would increase competition and transparency. Additionally, the bill included requiring a referendum for local wheel taxes and required that the entire DOT receive the same audit as the State Highway Program to flush out more inefficiencies so that the Legislature can act in our oversight role.

The Public Finance Authority (PFA) is quasi-government commission created by the Democratic-controlled legislature in 2009 for the purpose of issuing tax-exempt and taxable conduit bonds for public and private entities nationwide. The JFC added language expanding their authority in this budget to include eminent domain authority, remove auditing requirements, and granting the ability to finance projects outside of the United States. Providing quasi-state actors with eminent domain authority is not only bad public policy, but also constitutionally suspect. Governor Walker justifiably vetoed language expanding the PFA in the previous budget, and I will implore him to do the same this year.

This budget continues the trend of growing state government spending. As President Ronald Reagan, said, “There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.” With that in mind this budget increases spending by 4 percent from the previous biennial budget. Further, our state spends at a rate of $7,990 per resident while our neighboring states Minnesota ($6,528) and liberal Illinois ($4,947) spend less and achieve better results on road construction maintenance.

The Legislature needs to continue to deliver conservative reforms to grow our economy and provide economic freedom and liberty.

Unfortunately, I believe this budget falls short of meeting that objective adequately.

I’m sorry. I guess I must have missed all those budget amendments Craig authored and introduced to cut the increase in spending.

Earlier this week when it was reported five (5) GOP senators would oppose and hold up the budget, WTMJ Radio talk show host Jeff Wagner likened them to spoiled children who weren’t getting their way. Wagner said they should all have primary opponents when they were up for re-election, but now that would only mean Craig.

I’d be okay with that

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