Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The game is rigged

By Bill Kraus

The massively anti-government 2015 state government budget is almost law.

It is hard to find anyone who isn’t offended by something in this radical document.

The losers range from the entire education establishment where the iconic UW system took a large hit and the vaunted public education apparatus got a combination of competition and less money down to the people who wanted to cross some railroad tracks to get to their favorite fishing hole.

I asked the then Secretary of the Department of Administration Mike Heubsch whether there had been any pushback from the legislature. This was early. He said “no.”

This changed somewhat as the budget worked its way through the Joint Finance Committee and the individual legislators began to hear from their constituents about the harm being done to traditional Wisconsin institutions and values.

There were modifications and mild rebellions. I got the feeling that the legislators were getting the grief and the governor was getting on a plane for Israel. Loyalty only goes so far even in the mostly safe precincts of the state legislature.

In the last series of elections 132 legislators were elected to the Assembly and the Senate. Only 12 of them won by less than 55% of the vote. Another 22 won by less than 60% and more than 55%. Their were 50 legislators who got over 90% of the vote in their latest elections.

It’s true that no legislator no matter how popular and secure likes complaints from their friends and neighbors.

But not many really have to worry about losing their jobs.

The complaints that didn’t fall on deaf ears didn’t really end up making very dramatic changes in the budget.

The only short term remedy for this kind of unresponsiveness is having more seats and incumbents at risk. The route to that is redistricting reform.

A few lonely reform organizations and fewer brave majority legislators have not been able to get a hearing on redistricting that would make more districts competitive, more votes count, and more incumbents more responsive.

The game is clearly rigged. Redistricting is a mild unrigger.

What would happen if all the losers in the 2015 budget wars were to rally around the idea of dispassionate redistricting?

More than would happen if they don’t.

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