Real End of the World Stuff

In this update: 1. Ghostbusting the state budget 2. Public financing of elections gaining steam across the country 3. Line-standing is latest sign of privilege on steroids Real End of the World Stuff

Email date: 10/24/07

In this update:
1. Ghostbusting the state budget
2. Public financing of elections gaining steam across the country
3. Line-standing is latest sign of privilege on steroids

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline said about all that can be said: Wisconsin has a budget.

It’s not a good budget. It’s laced with pork and hidden fee increases. It puts nearly $900 million in spending on a credit card.

Neither side was happy, but the strangest collection of bedfellows ended up voting for it. The final vote in the Assembly conjures up Bill Murray’s famous line in Ghostbusters.

The remarkable thing about this budget deal is that it’s so unremarkable. When you see what’s been agreed to and how sticking points were resolved, you wonder why on earth lawmakers were almost four months late in getting there.

The makeup of this budget agreement is itself the most persuasive testimony that the problem is a broken process and legislative dysfunction, not intractable fiscal problems or irresolvable policy dilemmas.

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The political pathologies that became so apparent during the prolonged state budget stalemate are hardly unique to Wisconsin. Toxic partisanship, polarized debate and special interest dominion are conspicuous in state capitals across the country. As this commentary in The American Prospect notes, momentum is building from one coast to the other for a solution that gets at the root cause of government dysfunction. As more and more states board the train destined for public financing of election campaigns, the question is whether Wisconsin will climb on or be left at the station.

To help get Wisconsin on board, go here.

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A recent editorial in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram takes on a little-known but increasingly common lobbying ploy. Line standing.

Yep, wealthy interests pay people to stand in line for them so they get dibs at public hearings and other meetings with public officials. And it’s not just happening in Washington. The broadcast industry bused in line-standers to a recent Federal Communications Commission hearing in Chicago in an effort to monopolize the microphone.