This week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made history be being the first governor to win a recall election. The cost of the recall, including the primary and the general election, is estimated at $18 million. (And that’s not including the millions of dollars that were spent advertising and campaigning.)
The recall election never should have happened. The Wisconsin law allowing recall elections was created to allow voters to remove from office elected officials involved in misconduct. It wasn’t created to allow those who disagree with the governor’s budget to force a recall, although recalls for policy disagreements have become more common. (Sadly, the law on the books doesn’t explicitly say that recalls are to be used to remove politicians from office for misconduct. Hopefully that will be changed soon.)
This recall was supposedly for the little people. It was supposed to send a message to Governor Walker that the little guy matters. That depriving public union members of continued insane pay and benefits, far beyond those available to most in the private sector during tough economic times, is not okay. The recall was all about money.
So I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what $18 million could buy in Wisconsin. How much help for the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden could $18 million offer?
- Think of the children! While the state’s budget did not harm public schools (it simply required school employees to pitch in for their fantastic benefits, and budgets were adjusted accordingly), $18 million certainly could have added a bunch of teachers. Public school teachers commonly complain about the lack of art and music funding, and this money could have made a dent in that problem.
- It could add 22% to the State Public Defender’s budget, which is currently $81.7 million.
- What about public safety? It could have paid the salary for 422 new police officers in the City of Milwaukee, with a starting salary of $42,563.
- It could have covered the $17 million deficit for Badger Care (the state’s health insurance program for low income families with children) that the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families says the state should not have covered with cuts to the program.
- It could cover the health insurance premiums of $97.53 per month per child for 15,379 children in the Badger Care program for one year. (Here’s more on the premiums paid by families in Badger Care, and you can do the math to see how much $18 million could cover.
- It could have restored the $15 million cut from the Wisconsin Shares program, which provides day care services for low income families.
- It could have restored the $13.6 million reduction to the Homestead Tax Credit, a credit provided to low income home owners and renters.
Obviously this list could go on and on, as $18 million is a nice chunk of money that could have paid for lots of things other than a meaningless recall election. Check out the state’s budget here and make your own calculations.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying any of the above cuts were wrong or should have been reversed, even if there wasn’t a recall election. I believe Scott Walker fashioned his budget in the best way possible, making cuts across the board to distribute them fairly to all taxpayers. I am simply pointing out that those in favor of helping low income people hurt those very same people when they forced the state to spend $18 million on a meaningless recall election.
And I realize that people say this is the price of democracy. I disagree. The democracy allows for the election of a governor once every four years. If you don’t like how he governs, you have a chance to elect someone else in four years. You should not have the opportunity for a “do over” every two years.
The state has been doing well under Walker, with the budget deficit solved and job growth occurring. Imagine how much better the state might be doing if we hadn’t spent the last year re-doing the election (and giving the businesses and taxpayers an uncertain environment under which to make decisions). Walker did exactly what he was elected to do, and spending $18 million to try to undo that was a complete waste of taxpayer money.
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