In Fitzwalkerstan, wasting tax dollars is bad -- except when it isn't | WisCommunity

In Fitzwalkerstan, wasting tax dollars is bad -- except when it isn't

[img_assist|nid=58789|title=You want some of this?|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=0|height=0]Your editorial moment of zen this week comes from the Tomah Journal, which on Sunday offered up a rare instance of crystal-clear wisdom from news media on the subject of the state's new budget, and how, in it, Republicans are trying to have things both ways. The final paragraph of the newspaper's Sunday editorial is a punch in the jaw for GOP lawmakers who claim their only concerns are creating jobs and cutting wasteful government spending:

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The governor and state Legislature have raised a fundamental question: Is privatization a means to an end or an act of rigid free-market ideology? For Wisconsin’s dominant conservatives, it's the latter, and it means less bang for the taxpayers' buck.

The editorial was referring to two specific and highly criticized provisions in the new state budget. The editors noted that Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican majority in the legislature argued in effect that "the private sector always provides services more cheaply and efficiently than the government. Except in those cases when it doesn’t, in which case the private sector should provide the service anyway.

"How else to explain two cases of privatization imposed by the state Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker as part of the state budget bill? The budget prohibits county highway departments from doing construction projects outside their own county and restricts the growth of WiscNet, which provides reliable and cheap Internet service to universities, libraries and public schools."

The newspaper sums up: "Both provisions will add to the cost of local government."

Just as laughable is the reaction of private businesses in support of the measures. Private road builders complained that letting county governments build their own roads and share equipment and operating costs with neighboring counties to save even more money is unfair because counties don't pay taxes. Right. That's one of the ways letting the counties do their own work saves tax dollars. Another is eliminating the need to build a profit margin into their costs.

So which is it? Should governments in Wisconsin be required to always give all road work to private contractors even when that costs more in tax dollars, because that's "fair"? Or are we mostly concerned about getting the most work done at the least cost? You can't have it both ways, even if Republicans pretend you can. 

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July 5, 2011 - 9:12am