The Oshkosh Northwestern:
Consider the essence, rather than the source, of this comment by state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, on the unveiling of the TPA bill: "After generations of trying to rein in out-of-control spending …" Did you catch the blame game? Supposedly, politicians of decades ago now are to blame for the modern problem of "out-of-control spending."
The way to happiness in Wisconsin is to vote in November. Vote in a way so that the politicians who say the spending is out-of-control have no more control over our spending.
The Appleton Post Crescent:
New? Yeah. Improved? Some. But at its core, the proposed amendment to the state constitution remains an example of wrong-thinking government.
What it also does is allow the Legislature to abdicate its responsibility to make spending decisions on their relative merit, instead of some formula.
Government is supposed to be a tough business. We elect representatives — at both the state and local level — to make choices about public priorities. Going to the lengths of amending the state constitution to change that is akin to state legislators throwing up their hands and saying, "I can't do it. I don't want this responsibility."
If that's the case, they should find a new line of work.
Or if massive cuts threaten the quality of life in their districts, lawmakers can throw up their hands and say, "I can't do anything about it. It's written in the state constitution."
If that's the case, why do we need them?
The Marshfield News Herald:
The magic cure-all offered by those who favor minimalist government is a constitutionally mandated tax freeze. And Republican state legislators were back at work last week on their latest version -- now called the Taxpayers Protection Amendment, or TPA.
This time, though, they're running into inconvenient facts that reveal the real ingredients of this odious unguent.
Perhaps its most relevant conclusion is this: Property taxes aren't out of control, and neither is government spending. In relation to personal income, state and local government taxes are lower today than they were 10 and even 20 years ago.
Perhaps we've been told that our paychecks are disappearing down a government rathole so many times that we've come to believe it. But Reschovsky cuts through all the politics and focuses on the unintended consequences of a freeze:
* Because TPA would limit growth of government revenue to inflation, it would result in ever-shrinking government services. Why? Inflation measures increasing prices among all consumer goods and services -- groceries, day care, refrigerators, clothes, you name it.
But government spends most of its money on goods and services such as health insurance and gasoline, with price increases that have far outpaced inflation. So TABOR would result in massive program cuts.
"(The) impact of the amendment would be to continuously reduce the level and quality of public services provided to the residents of Wisconsin," Reschovsky concluded.
* In Portage County, Plover is booming, with new homes and businesses sprouting everywhere. In Wood County, Wisconsin Rapids has seen a rash of job layoffs and growth is slow at best. Wausau and Marshfield are holding steady, with a fair amount of new construction and new jobs.
TPA would treat them all the same and subject everyone to control by a Madison-based Politburo.
"This is a diverse state with varied preferences for public services, great variation in economic conditions and social conditions," Reschovsky wrote. And the best people to address those variations are local officials most familiar with them -- and most responsive to voters.
It's vital that we ask ourselves some questions: Do our schools provide the launching pads that send our kids into the world well-equipped to succeed? Do we go to bed at night secure in the notion that if trouble arises, police and firefighters will respond? Are our roads plowed and in good repair, allowing safe travel and reliable commerce?
Are we getting what we're paying for?
Reasonable people can disagree about the role of government. But that should be an honest debate.
When lawmakers promise painless tax freezes, watch out. Don't buy that snake oil.