Approximately 30% of the revenue in Wisconsin’s current two-year budget comes from the federal government — and that doesn’t include billions and billions of dollars sent to the Badger State to ostensibly get us through the pandemic.
There are multiple problems that arise from that fact. Over 10,000 “state” employees are actually paid by the federal government and in many instances are bound by federal rules and requirements. A massive bureaucracy has arisen just to manage the relationship between the federal government and the state. It is difficult for federal officials to manage the money from afar, and state leaders are naturally less interested in making sure it is spent wisely (or at all) given the fact that voters often see it as “free” cash.
It isn’t. In fact, as we’ve argued over the years, all of that federal support results in a loss of local control and accountability, time, innovation and transparency. There’s also waste of tax dollars, nonsensical spending or lack of focus. Years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, Wisconsin officials by the fall of 2022 still hadn’t spent billions of dollars of federal pandemic aid meant to ensure our health and economic rejuvenation. Rest assured, they will spend it somehow.
Here, Mike Nichols and Mark Lisheron provide an overview of the problems and tell us what state and federal leaders can do to restore the original vision of James Madison.