Stimulus Report Shows Growth in Government, Not Private Sector
Last week, Wisconsin's Office of Recovery and Reinvestment released initial findings detailing the effect of the stimulus here in Wisconsin. The report showed that 8,284 jobs had been "created or retained" by spending $680 million. According to the report, there is still another $1 billion left to be spent.
Though the report was rather ambiguous as to how many jobs were created and how many retained, it is clear that at least 75% of the 8,284 jobs were government jobs that were retained. It was also difficult to determine if the remaining 25% were government jobs or private sector jobs, and whether those jobs were created or retained. Any way you look at this, that is a price tag of more than $82,000 per job, spent mostly to increase the size of government.
I have been a cautious advocate of certain parts of the stimulus since its inception because I believe that getting people back to work by creating private sector jobs should be Job 1 for Wisconsin legislators. I also think that in a time of record unemployment, saving jobs is important. However, these new numbers are troubling to me and will cause me to be much more skeptical of how the stimulus is implemented in Wisconsin.
First, it seems to me that after almost a year of stimulus allocation, more than 8,000 jobs should have been created. Especially considering the White House projects that the stimulus will create or save 70,000 jobs in Wisconsin. At this rate, that goal hardly seems possible.
Second, even if we do save or create 70,000 jobs, my fear is that it will be at the future expense of the taxpayers. It's great to have jobs for everyone, but when they're ongoing government jobs, created with one-time money, the taxpayers will be on the hook for the ongoing cost of salary and benefits for those jobs.
Lastly, there is a lot of credit being taken by stimulus supporters who once touted the stimulus as a way to create jobs, and are now simply claiming victory when jobs are "retained". Unfortunately, there is little way to prove that those jobs would have been retained despite the $1.92 billion allocated to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin lost 21,700 jobs last month - the fourth largest numerical drop in the country and the the second largest by percentage of workforce - and it's a good bet that very few of those were government jobs. While some will downplay these numbers because it looks like unemployment dropped, that is deceiving. Unemployment is still increasing as many unemployed people have simply given up looking for a job. As the Legislature spends the remaining $1 billion in stimulus money, we need to focus more on creating private sector jobs to replace the ones we are losing.
Utility Taxes Increase this Month to Fund District Attorneys
You may notice a slight increase in the amount you pay to your utility this month, not because you used more energy, but because the most recent budget increased the low income assistance fee to pay the salaries of District Attorneys.
This odd funding source is nothing more than a budget gimmick used by Governor Doyle to help balance the books. In search of more general purpose revenue, Governor Doyle simply took money $9.1 million annually from the District Attorneys and replaced it with increased revenue in the energy assistance fund, paid for by you, the taxpayer, via a higher assessment on your utility bill.
The average customer pays $36 dollars a year into this fund to (ostensibly) help the poor with high heating costs every winter. You will now be asked to contribute $3 more per year - about a 10% increase - to provide Doyle more general purpose revenue to close deficits in existing programs, provide increases in others, and even create new programs.
While you might want to know why this money is being used for the District Attorneys, it really has nothing to do with them, and could have been done to any program using general funds. The DAs received no raises this year, and weren't even aware their salaries were now funded using a utility tax increase.
But this does illustrate the problem that occurs when funds are raided for things other than their intended purpose. Since 2002, $166 million has been transferred from the low income assistance account to other accounts, ranging from W2 to county and municipal aid payments, and now to DAs. Providing heating assistance to low income individuals is a worthy cause, but continually increasing the fee, and still allowing consumers to believe that their money is going to that fund is not. Clearly, if there is $166 million available to raid, the fee should be decreased.
State Representative Robin Vos State Capitol - Room 105 West - Post Office Box 8953 - Madison, Wisconsin 53708 Phone: (608) 266-9171 - Toll Free: (888) 534-0063 - Fax (608) 282-3663 Email: Rep.Vos@legis.wisconsin.gov On the Internet: Representative Vos' Web Site