State Government and Political Roundup: Wisconsin spending more tax money to send criminals to prison than sending kids to collegeWisconsin News
-- For the first time, Wisconsinites are spending more tax money to send criminals to prison than to send kids to college.
For the first time, Wisconsinites are spending more tax money to send criminals to prison than to send kids to college.
Governor Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers budgeted $2.4 billion dollars for the Corrections Department in the current two-year budget – and only $1.1 billion for the University system. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reviewed over 20 years of state budgets – and it found that the trend was building over that time with numerous policy changes. Both parties are responsible. And the same trend is happening nationally.
New prisons have mushroomed throughout Wisconsin since 1990, and corrections costs have jumped 620-percent in that time. But the Walker budget held prison costs steady, mainly by cutting benefits and ending generous overtime policies. Public funding for the UW, meanwhile, has gone down over the last decade while enrollments have jumped 10-percent. Unlike other agencies, the UW can raise tuition – which it’s been doing by five-and-a-half percent in each of the last few years. It can also seek more private funds. But UW President Kevin Reilly says the system is quote, “coming up against a wall.” He said the current budgeting trends cannot continue – or else the state will not meet its obligation to educate its people for the workforce. With the next state budget looming, lawmakers are starting to talk about funding options for the UW, and addressing prison costs further. But Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says it won’t be easy, as Medicaid health costs eat up a larger share of the budget.
Paul Ryan has admitted that he asked two federal agencies for millions in stimulus funds, at the same time he was publicly condemning the Obama stimulus program. Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate from Janesville, denied twice this week that he lobbied for the stimulus money in 2009 as a congressman. Those denials contradicted letters sent with his signature to the Labor and Energy departments, asking for funds on behalf of two energy conservation firms in Wisconsin. In a statement late yesterday, Ryan said he forgot that his office sent the letters. He said they were treated as requests for service by his constituents, similar to the way veterans’ matters are handled. And he says it’s why he didn’t remember the letters when he was asked about the matter. One of Ryan’s funding requests was approved. The Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation received just over $20-million to help homes-and-businesses become more energy-efficient. The letters were first reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2010 – but they’ve gotten a new life in the media after Ryan was named six days ago as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Both Romney and Ryan have said the stimulus program did nothing to boost the economy. And Ryan says Obama now wants to “do it all over again.”