Real problems demand real solutions.
Wisconsin’s next governor will enter office and immediately face a gaping $2.3 billion structural budget deficit. It’s a challenge exacerbated by years of budget gimmicks, bureaucratic waste, needless spending and unacceptable fraud.
It’s time to change the way business is done at the State Capitol.
I have a plan to put Madison on a diet that will immediately save Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1 billion every year in specific spending cuts and savings. It’s a plan that sets Wisconsin on the path to fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. And it’s a plan with real, detailed proposals -- not empty rhetoric or simplistic slogans.
It starts with common sense reforms to reduce spending. For example, by working to combine state and local government employees’ purchasing power statewide, we can save $339 million in health care costs each year. Wisconsin taxpayers can save $76 million annually by improving financial administration and controlling overpriced contracts. And there is no reason prisoners should have better health care than working- and middle-class families struggling in this recession. My plan will save nearly $10 million per year by cutting Cadillac health care for state prison inmates.
State government can cut spending $175 million each year just by moving into the 21st century with “paperless” technology upgrades; cracking down on Medicaid fraud and tax deadbeats can provide another $90 million in taxpayer savings.
Wisconsin also needs a top-to-bottom audit of state spending to root out additional areas of waste, inefficiency and abuse. Michigan, Iowa and California have all implemented comprehensive reviews that have uncovered hundreds of millions -- even billions -- of dollars in potential savings. We can do the same in Wisconsin.
We can further streamline government by establishing a sunset review system of all of the state’s regulatory programs, commissions and boards. Texas realized a $37 return for each $1 invested in this reform.
Making sure state government is more responsive, transparent and accountable is another key part of my plan to put Madison on a diet. My proposed budgets will eliminate wasteful pork, stop the irresponsible practice of raiding funds, and end financial gimmicks like pushing expenses from one year to the next.
State government must also be more responsive to the people and less beholden to the special interests. We can change the culture in Madison by requiring faster online reporting of lobbyist meetings with elected officials; eliminating special pension bonuses for politicians and top appointees; and keeping state employee compensation and pensions in line with the private sector.
Critics will say it is impossible to really change the way Madison works, but real problems demand real solutions. As I travel across Wisconsin, I hear the frustration with state government and a hunger for a new way to do the people’s business at the Capitol.
By putting state government on a diet, we will save state taxpayers more than $1 billion every year and provide the honest plans and straight talk Wisconsin deserves. We will hold state government accountable, be responsive to the people, and stop waste, inefficiency and fraud.
And we will bring to the state Capitol the adult leadership Wisconsin deserves.
View my complete plan to put state government on a diet online: www.barrettforwisconsin.com/diet.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, is a Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate.