Democratic former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold on Monday released a menu of budget fixes he says would help restore the country's fiscal health through spending cuts, government and tax reform and reducing partisan gridlock.
The list includes suggestions ranging from broad to very specific. They're not intended to be implemented all together, Feingold said, but he believes many of them could be enacted with bipartisan support.
"This is really what the work of representing the people of Wisconsin should be about," Feingold said in an interview.
Feingold, who has been touring the state's 72 counties as he campaigns against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, said people should be responsible for how their tax dollars are used.
"That involves actually making the hard choices, rolling up your sleeves, identifying the places where there's waste," Feingold said, arguing that Johnson talks about the national deficit but doesn't offer solutions.
Under Feingold's plan, the federal government would move to a biennial budgeting model like the one used in Wisconsin. A two-year model eliminates the opportunity for special interests to hold up the budgeting process every year, Feingold said.
The plan also calls for eliminating automatic pay raises for members of Congress and for reducing the number of White House political appointees. Congress has the ability to block pay raises and has done so since 2009, but Feingold said the burden should be on lawmakers if they want a raise in pay.
Other Feingold proposals include eliminating tax breaks that disproportionately benefit gas and oil companies, replacing the Joint Strike Fighter program with purchases of existing F-16s and F/A-18s, limiting corporate inversions, producing fewer ballistic missile submarines for the Navy, implementing the so-called "Buffett Rule" and opting to not retrofit the Abrams tank.
Some of those ideas would likely face resistance, Feingold said, but he argued most of it will come from special interests.
"This involves making hard choices … this involves fighting the fight," Feingold said. "That's the approach I know how to do. That’s what I did when I was in the Senate."
A spokesman for Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Feingold's plan.
“Senator Feingold is desperately hoping Wisconsin voters forgot about his 18-year record in Washington, including 270 different votes in favor of higher taxes, $10 trillion in higher debt, and broken campaign promises made to Wisconsin voters,” said Pat Garrett, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in a statement. "Feingold is another hypocritical Washington politician, too far out of touch with Wisconsin values to be trusted on this important issue.”
Feingold leads Johnson, 47 percent to 42 percent, according to a Marquette University Law School poll released late last month.