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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Doyle views Wisconsin with overly rosy glasses

To hear Gov. Doyle describing the ""state"" of our state, one has to wonder why he decided not to seek re-election in 2010. An outsider would never have known that his popularity as governor has been slipping for some time, even within his own party. Aside from a few comments about the difficult economic times we're immersed in, Doyle made things sound simply whimsical. But in reality, Doyle's speech bent the truth on some issues and simply sidestepped others altogether.

During his speech, Doyle extolled the virtues of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which will apparently be one of the pet projects of his lame duck time in office. According to him, the plan would create more than 15,000 jobs in the state, particularly in construction, manufacturing and agriculture. However, this figure has been disputed, and the business community in Wisconsin is sharply divided on the issue. No one is against making policy changes to lessen the impact of businesses on the environment, but they need to be at least somewhat practical.

This plan would create jobs in the growing clean energy sector. The question is what these new jobs would cost. Opponents of this plan, some of whom work in the very manufacturing and construction industries Doyle claims would add new jobs as a result of it, are concerned. They say it would send energy costs through the roof for businesses and consumers alike. If this ended up being the case, it could cost more jobs than it would create. They also wonder if adding more regulations for businesses to wrestle with is a good idea at a time when unemployment has approached double digits in the state.

Surely some issues were left out of Doyle's address because he simply did not have enough time for them. But he certainly had plenty of time to admire the legacy he perceives he will be leaving behind. He celebrated his tax record, citing the fact that Wisconsin has moved out of the top 10 highest taxed states in the country. First of all, our football neighbors, the Lions, improved in the standings in the recently concluded NFL season too, but I doubt anyone is celebrating over their two-win effort in Detroit. Wisconsin's tax situation has indeed improved, but the state had virtually nowhere to go but up. Second, in bringing this up, Doyle conveniently neglected the fact that just last year, he signed a budget that increased taxes and fees by $2.1 billion. Something tells me Wisconsin will be regressing toward its initial position in those standings.

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But even this projected revenue increase was not enough to come close to balancing the new budget. In addition to that, Doyle's budget required a combined $2.2 billion of federal stimulus money and spending cuts to be feasible. None of this money, whether from Washington or from cuts in Wisconsin, will be available in 2011. The state's situation has been described as an absolute disaster in an analysis that compared it with that of California and concluded that the two predicaments are not as different as the prevalence of California's story in the media might indicate to some.

Fiscal problems as extensive as these are what result when a government, an entity that can produce nothing beyond the reallocation of resources, grows larger than it can afford to. For example, in November of 2009, for the first time since the ‘60s, Wisconsin, a manufacturing state, had fewer manufacturing jobs than government jobs. This kind of policy absolutely cannot be sustained. Doyle has been at the helm for seven years now while things spiraled downward. The disastrous results of this kind of policy are what forced him to break his vehement promise to ""hold the line"" on taxes. They are also the sort of results that, when combined with the recent general realization among Democrats that the 2010 midterm elections could be very painful, can lead a governor who has spent his time in office seemingly going out of his way to kill jobs to suddenly reverse course and talk almost exclusively about them in his final State of the State Address.

Doyle can say what he wants about jobs and taxes and all the wonderful things he has done to improve Wisconsin's lot in the world, but that will not make any of it true. The truth is that if he really believed he were half the governor he claimed he has been last Tuesday night, he would be running for re-election. As a result of his time as governor, his successor, be he Barrett or Walker, will have some serious rebuilding to do in conjunction with the Legislature. Every Wisconsin resident had better hope against all hope that their new leaders will be up to such a stiff challenge.

Ben Turpin is a junior majoring in psychology. We welcome all feedback. Please send all feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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