Message to the Campus
October 22, 2002
A Report from the Wisconsin Economic
Greetings from Milwaukee.
While this comment will not reach you until I am back in Green Bay, I am sitting
in my hotel room thinking about a report presented late this afternoon at the
Wisconsin Economic Summit III.
The State, as we all know, faces serious economic problems. Today, at the Summit,
a report was presented on The Fiscal Crisis in Wisconsin. The report
was very helpful to this newcomer in understanding the origins of the problems.
It does much more, though, going on to suggest a genuine solution.
Put together by a respected and influential group of private citizens, the solution
will draw fire from all directions. Everyone, you included, will find parts
of the recommendations that are objectionable. Perhaps even strongly objectionable.
The fact is, though, that there is no real solution that will not create pain.
This set of recommendations shares that pain while truly addressing important
problems like a tax climate hostile to further economic development.
Nobody running for elected office will touch this set of recommendations with
a ten-foot pole. Not today. But, eventually, the focus must shift to governing.
And, there is no more tobacco money hanging out there to allow us to duck a
problem that has been at least a decade in the making.
Action will need to be taken. And, taken in an environment in which the legislature
is likely to be again divided -- Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans
controlling the Assembly -- and where the Governor -- be he Democrat or Republican
-- will need to build bridges to his own party, not to mention to the other
party in the legislature.
It is in all our interests -- for the State of Wisconsin, for Green Bay, for
Green Bay's University of Wisconsin -- to keep our elected representatives focused
upon a comprehensive, fair, no-gimmicks, and enduring budget solution. No jostling
for partisan advantage; put the overall interests of the State at the forefront.
I know, from my conversations with our Northeast Wisconsin legislative representatives,
that this is a need that they understand well and support.
I believe the plan laid out at the Summit is an excellent starting point. It
is worth looking at and can be found at: http://www.wisconsin.edu/summit/papers/fiscalpolicy.pdf.
That plan broadly illustrates the scope that a comprehensive solution must follow.
It shows how we can make progress on underlying problems (e.g., tax climate)
while addressing immediate budgetary challenges. It also makes clear that there
is no possible solution that leaves untouched matters about which we care deeply.
You may not like what you find in the plan. There is a bigger need, though,
on which I think we can agree to act in concert. I worry about "politics
as usual" in which every vested interest -- including UWGB -- picks apart
any comprehensive proposal, making constructive action impossible.
We all come out better, I believe, if we force upon ourselves a fair and comprehensive
solution, one that fairly spreads the pain. I ask that you consider helping
build the pressure necessary for our elected leaders to stand up to the many
vested interests that will take aim at whatever comprehensive and fair proposal
is put forward.
Let's expect -- and demand -- the best from ourselves, focusing upon a package
serving the good of the whole even though that means accepting some consequences
we would prefer to avoid.
Let's expect -- and demand -- the best from our representatives, promising to
stand firmly behind them when they take the heat that comes from putting shared
and public interests above special and selfish interests.
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