Tools and the governor…
This from Governor Walker’s budget speech yesterday:
“As we decrease spending, we also increase flexibility so local government and state government have the tools to deal with reduced revenue. It’s true we are reducing aid to local government by just over one and a quarter billion dollars, but we are providing almost $1.5 billion in savings through our budget repair bill. If the 14 Senate democrats do not come home, their local communities will be forced to manage these reductions in aid without the benefit of the tools provided in the repair bill. On the other hand, if the Senate democrats do come home, local units of government overall will actually see a net increase in revenue plus savings of more than $150 million.”
So I keep hearing the guv talk about these “tools” for local governments, counties and school districts in his budget repair bill. We use the word “tool” a lot ourselves – especially lately – so I thought it was important enough to look it up in the dictionary, in the interests of clear communications.
A good definition for tool in the way that Governor Walker seems to be using it:
TOOL: Something (as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession <a scholar’s books are his tools> c: a means to an end <a book’s cover can be a marketing tool>
The Urban Dictionary, as always, has a little different take on the word:
TOOL : A person, typically male, who says or does things that cause you to give them a ‘what-are-you-even-doing-here’ look. The ‘what-are-you-even-doing-here’ look is classified by a glare in the tool’s direction and is usually accompanied by muttering of how big of a tool they are. The tool is usually someone who is unwelcome but no one has the balls to tell them to get lost. The tool is always making comments that are out-of-place, out-of-line or just plain stupid. The tool is always trying too hard to fit in, and because of this, never will. However, the tool is useful because you can use them for things; money, rides, ect. (Tax cuts, no-bid contracts, more funds for your special interest… Okay, I threw those last few things in there.)
The thing is, there really aren’t many tools in the budget repair bill. It is an attack on local control by demanding compliance with harsh revenue limits while slashing state support. Meanwhile, Walker throws out recycling, comes down hard on programs for unemployed and low income people, takes hundreds of millions out of higher education – but proposes a 100 percent tax break for certain capital gains (thanks, WMC) and diverts certain tax streams for transportation (thanks, Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association.)
The “net increase in revenue plus savings of more than $150 million” is largely whatever those other units of government can take out of their employees’ hides. That money will be shipped off to insurance companies and money managers — just like it always was in the past — but its path will be a little different and it involves large net losses to employees and on Main Street.
The only way to make things work under the cuts in state revenue being proposed will be through implementation of Walker’s plan to gut public employee unions, require significant compensation concessions and do layoffs. That’s what the governor calls “a net increase in revenue, plus savings.” It’s already sent 14 senators out of state and tens of thousands of demonstrators to the streets to protest, while becoming the guv’s excuse to turn the capitol building into a fortified bunker where the general public is no longer welcome without an appointment.
Business groups would flip out if state government did anything to remove that much money from local economies in the form of state taxes, but somehow the damage that this budget proposal will do through lost discretionary income isn’t being discussed quite so much. Still, some are beginning to get it. Roman Candle Pizza in Madison left the Wisconsin Restaurant Association this week over the association’s continued support of Governor Walker and its refusal to side with public employees. They know that when their customers’ incomes are cut, it’s going to cost their business at the cash register. Other businesses would do well to think about he negative impact of Walker’s proposal on their businesses, too.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says this morning:
“(The budget repair) bill goes well beyond what is needed to control spending. One of its aims, in fact, is to bust the state’s public-employee unions, which is not only wrong but unnecessary. That bill is not equitable. It exempts many public safety unions, which means Milwaukee and other cities will not have the tools Walker says he has given them to deal with reductions in state aid contained in this legislation.”
So it just isn’t enough for the governor to cut state spending, which is his job, if he can gain the necessary legislative support. Walker also attempts to exert an imperial command for every local unit of government and school district in Wisconsin to do things his way, whether they want to or not. You won’t get to decide on any of that with your local elected officials. Everyone has to do it Walker’s way because he’s the decider now, you know?
Tools? In Walker’s World, there is exactly one. It’s a chainsaw.