I am doing everything I can to get a full state budget approved. Since the Conference Committee can’t agree on every part of the budget yet, at a minimum it is important a good faith compromise be reached now on education and aid to local governments.
Leaving aside whatever merits the passage of the Assembly bill may have as policy, only a fool would believe that it did anything but hurt the chances of getting a full budget passed quickly. I don’t think Davis is a fool but apparently he thinks we are fools. Davis wants to be seen as a moderate who is open to compromise and a friend of public education. Let’s review the record.
On On April 20th Davis said he was “crafting legislation” based on UW Professor Alan Odden’s adequacy plan “to overhaul the state’s school-finance system.” He added: “I’m committed to working as hard as I can for that [have the proposal ready and hold hearing in the Fall].” As of September 18th, his office could not give a progress report or timeline for the legislation or hearings.
On July 11th Davis joined with all but one of his Republican Assembly colleagues to pass a budget proposal that was filled with right wing policy initiatives and would have been devastating to Wisconsin’s schools (more here and here).
When on August 9th the GOP JFC members made a new and almost equally devastating education offer, Rep. Davis appears to have been silent.
As the weeks passed with little progress, the GOP realized that in addition to the much heralded defunding of state and local government programs that would occur due to a delayed budget (starve the beast), no budget would also mean increased property taxes. On September 18th they blinked and sought cover by having the Assembly pass a bill on k-12 funding and local government aids. These bills have zero chance of passing the Senate or being signed by the Governor. They are simply a way for the Republicans to save face after their previous games with the budget didn’t work out the way they wanted. They are also “political sideshow” designed to distract from the GOP’s failure to negotiate the full budget in good faith.
Throughout this period Davis, as Chair of the Education Committee, has refused to schedule a hearing on the Pope-Roberts school finance reform resolution, dismissing it as a political tactic. Funny that he didn’t vote against the political tactic of the GOP Assembly budget, didn’t point out the games being played with education funding in the Conference Committee and continues to champion the dead-on-arrival separate education funding bill — they are all transparent political tactics.
If Rep. Davis is sincere in his concern for schools, his embrace of the Odden plan and his desire for compromise then at very least he should schedule a hearing on the Pope-Roberts proposal and use this hearing to pave the way for a long promised introduction of his legislation based on the Odden plan. The Pope-Roberts resolution simply asks for a solution that meets certain criteria; according to Davis his Odden based bill will meet (or come close to meeting) those criteria.
This seems like a perfect opportunity to work together and move toward a solution, the kind of opportunity a moderate who cares about schools would jump at. Too bad Rep. Davis is too busy tying himself in knots by working for a full budget while stumping for means to take the pressure off the Conference Committee; by attacking supposed Democratic political ploys while participating in GOP charades; by playing to moderates while trying to keep the WMC money flowing.
Davis may think that with a few words in a well crafted press release he can paper over the contradictions in his actions and statements. This time the gap between words and actions is too big and the record too clear for him to get away with it. Free advice to Rep. Davis – maybe next time act like the moderate who values education and looks for compromise that you claim to be and you won’t end up in such a twisted mess.
Thomas J. Mertz