Walker anticipates need for uninformed legislature

Following Senate recall, Gov. Walker will need an uninformed legislature. The Governor vetoed the obligations for producing several upcoming accountability reports for the legislature's Joint Committee on Finance. In exchange, Walker makes an unenforceable promise of direct public access to agency expenditures.

In the news: Walker signs budget bill, vetoes just 50 items

Walker made his vetoes and signed the budget Sunday afternoon at Fox Valley Metal-Tech in Ashwaubenon.

Walker's 50 vetoes were less extensive compared with those issued by previous governors, but that's due largely to the fact that Walker's fellow Republicans run both houses of the Legislature and worked closely with the governor in crafting the legislation.

In executive-legislative relations: Walker's letter to the Assembly includes his description of the budget and his 50 vetoes. Direct quotes and the following page numbers and veto numbers are in reference to that document. Analysis is derived from both the list of vetoes and the full text of the Budget Bill with partial vetoes.

Vetoes 1, 2, 4, 7, and 8 removed or limited the requirements for certain executive branch reports to the legislature. Veto 37 created the loopholes in the new agency-expenditure transparency measures.

xi: [The partially-vetoed budget] Requires more transparency in state government through on-line reporting of state expenditures, grants and contracts on a searchable Internet Web site available to the public.

     Section 215m: Disclosure of Expenditures on Internet Web Site
  • State agencies shall provide the Department of Administration with expenditure information.
  • State agencies shall provide the Department of Administration with information of grants and contracts entered into.
  • The Department of Administration shall place the information on a publicly-accessible searchable website.
Walker removed the date by which any of the above disclosures must happen.  These disclosure requirements were slated to take affect on July 1, 2013.  Walker struck down the dates and deadlines stating the department [of Administration] must have flexibility in meeting the goal of this requirement.  Walker further added that he would direct the department [of Administration] to immediately report monthly expenditures by state agency, funding source and appropriation through a publicly accessible Web site.  He failed to indicate whether state agencies will be stirred to provide the required information to the Department of Administration.

Hypothesis: In anticipation of recall results, Walker is replacing "streamlining" with roadblocks:  To introduce up-to-date bills relating to the reports rendered unavailable by vetoes 1, 2, 4, 7, and 8, the legislature must again pass legislation requiring the agencies to make a report.

In exchange, Walker & Co. throw the public a bone with the "searchable Internet Web site."

Walker's promise to "direct" the Department of Administration does not in turn bestow upon the DoA the power to "direct" state agencies to fulfill the reporting requirements.  Walker has made no mention of requiring state agencies to disclose information to the DoA "immediately." 

Without legislative deadlines, the state's agencies are not required to "immediately" report the requisite information to the Department of Administration.  Without such mandate, the DoA will have nothing to share with the public.

Loophole (The effect of Walker's 37th veto): By removing the dates and deadlines attached to the public disclosure website, Governor Walker's Sunday vetoes gave himself the power to enact or delay dissemination of agency expenditures according to his own calendar.  As an added bonus for his sense of importance, this power won't be passed on to the next Governor.  By that time, the searchable website will be in place and the office of the governor will no longer enjoy the luxury of transparency-at-will.

In Walker's Wisconsin, "transparency in government" includes a loophole by which the governor chooses how and when to disseminate information.

Future work: Which legislation will Walker delay with his transparent denial of access to agency reports?

Fun with resources:
  • Walker's letter to the Assembly
    Excerpt: This budget reflects a return to the bedrock principles of our state's constitution - frugality and moderation
    The budget I sign today, with limited vetoes, remains consistent with those goals and values. I want to commend the Legislature for its work in completing the budget on time.

  • Republicans in Legislature may try to make recalls harder
    [Republican lawmakers] said the [recall] situation has already slowed down the legislative process as senators fight recalls and some members of the Assembly run for Senate seats.

  • Walker will demonstrate personal restraint when applying the governor's veto
    When the legislature worked uncompromisingly and under a strict deadline, the exact wording of the budget was easily controlled. This allowed Walker's Senators, in defiance of the Republican-lauded, constitutionally-encouraged notion of "separation of powers," to set things up quite nicely for Governor Walker.

  • Why Do We Separate the Powers of Government?
    The constitution separates the powers of government to avoid concentration of governmental power and to prevent tyranny. The doctrine does not require total separation of powers, but it sacrifices some efficiency in goverment to ensure that the people will have liberty.

Appendix:  Vetoes removing reports and requirements

xiii: These vetoes remove unnecessary reports and requirements, clarify program implementation timelines, and improve the intended focus of certain programs.

1.  Agriculture Chemical Funds Report
Report would have been due December 31, 2011.
Walker vetoed the date by which the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection must report its findings on the study and evaluation of the condition of the agricultural chemical cleanup fund and the agricultural management fund and their structural imbalances.

2.  Grain Inspection Program Report
Report would have been due January 1, 2012.
Walker vetoed the reporting requirement of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for the plan to reduce and eliminate the remaining deficit because Walker object[s] to requiring additional reporting requirements for a program that has been in deficit since the end of fiscal year 2000-01.

4.  Nursing Services Report
Report would have been due October 1, 2011.
Walker vetoed the reporting requirement of the Department of Corrections on nursing staff and costs for each facility and a summary of each contract for nursing services for fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11.

7.  Economic Impact Analysis
Report would have been due December 31, 2011
Walker vetoed the date by which the Department of Natural Resources must prepare an economic impact analysis for the phosphorous effluent limitation and shoreland zoning administrative rules.

8.  Report on Drug Offender Diversion Surcharge Fund
Walker vetoed the requirement for the Department of Administration to submit a plan to the Joint Committee on Finance reporting how the department will reduce state appropriations by $1,917,900 over the 2011-13 biennium because the deficit will be examined again in developing the 2013-15 biennial budget.

Updated June 29, 2011: format adjustment

Monday, June 27, 2011


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