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CAPITOLISMS BLOG: A foolish consistency

Although Gov. Scott Walker’s 57 vetoes to the state’s new budget contained few surprises, the reasons given for his use of his powerful pen might have left some observers scratching their heads.

After seeing Walker strike out a previous budget’s call for the reintroduction of bails bondsmen to Wisconsin, hardly anyone could be caught off guard by his doing it again this time around. But what to make of his saying in Item 49 of his final veto message that “this policy is best addressed through separate legislation to provide opportunity for additional study of the current system of pretrial release and to allow for public input”?

Why should this one issue be dealt with through an independent bill while dozens of other nonfiscal policy items identified by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau deserve to be signed into law alongside the parts of the budget that actually pertain to financial matters? Isn’t it only consistent to say that if we are going to have a public debate and separate legislation on bail bondsmen, we should also have one on the budget’s enshrinement of the kringle as the official state pastry?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker presents the state budget after signing while surrounded by children from the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha during a private ceremony at Catalyst Exhibits Sunday, July 30, in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. The budget approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature includes all Walker's priorities, including a $650 million income tax cut, expansion of private school vouchers and changes to the state's Medicaid and food stamp programs. (AP Photo/Kenosha News, Brian Passino)

Gov. Scott Walker presents the state budget surrounded by children from the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha on Sunday in Pleasant Prairie. Walker’s vetoes included killing the use of bail bondsmen in the state. (AP Photo/Kenosha News, Brian Passino)

Other parts of the final veto message raise similar questions. In explaining why he eliminated a provision having to do with the number of hours a person can work in a week containing a holiday and still claim partial unemployment benefits, Walker once again said he thinks the matter would be best dealt with in separate legislation. He even goes so far as to say the called-for reform, to ensure it doesn’t clash with federal laws and regulations, should come under the scrutiny of the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council.

But the council already considered the proposal and rejected it, expressing concerns about the burden it would place on the state agency that would be charged with enforcing it. Why would another look at it result in anything different?

Then there is the question of why one unemployment-insurance reform was singled out for a veto while a score or more of others, likewise rejected by the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, were left alone. Why, for instance, shouldn’t additional consideration also be given to a proposal that would increase taxes on the heaviest users of the state’s unemployment-benefits system by $32 million in 2015?

Unfortunately when the governor signed the budget in Pleasant Prairie on Sunday, he didn’t take questions from the press. So I didn’t bother going.

But in the absence of answers, I’m left with my usual supposition – say it’s cynical if you will – that whatever the stated reasons for these changes, the real one was political expediency.

(To be fair, I should note that other reporters have assured me that the Democrats, who complained long and loud about all the policy in the budget this year, had been known to lard budgets up with all sorts of nonfiscal items when they were in charge.)

Staff writer Dan Shaw writes his Capitolisms blog for The Daily Reporter and Wisconsin Law Journal. Read more at

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