Thursday, January 19, 2012

Walker’s Sham Waste, Fraud and Abuse Commission

I spent the last year serving on Governor Walker’s Waste, Fraud and Abuse Commission and I can honestly say it was a giant waste, fraud and abuse of government resources.

I agreed to serve on the commission because I took Governor Walker at his word that the commission would help us find savings that would help us out of our state’s perennial fiscal mess.

That was my first mistake.

Unfortunately, while the commission’s goal was laudable, the commission lost its way quickly. I caution readers that the Republican report takes credit for work already accomplished by our state agencies or items over which the decision-making process rests in the hands of the federal or local units of government.

And if that’s not enough to give you pause, Governor Walker’s numbers weren’t ever independently corroborated, yet the media keeps reporting them as if they were.

But what gives me the most heartburn over my experience on Governor Walker’s commission is that we were denied a vote on the commission. Before you turn this into a more partisan thing than the commission’s findings (if that’s even possible), take a breath. It was just the Democrats that didn’t get to vote on the commission’s report, NOBODY VOTED ON IT! How can you call this the commission’s “recommendation” when the commission didn’t even vote on the end product?

There were a lot of problems with the process and the report. Without further ado, I offer you the Top 5 Problems with Governor Walker’s Waste, Fraud and Abuse Commission report:

1.      The report takes credit for passing federal legislation – In its court debt collection section, the report recommend passage of H.R. 1416, which they say would save $5.4 - $27 million. How can this commission, with a straight face, take credit for passage of a bill that hasn’t even passed the United Congress? Either this is the most powerful non-democratic commission in the world, or one giant sham. Take your pick.

2.      The report makes suggestions that could deny FoodShare to poor people – The Walker report suggests requiring photo ID’s to be added to the Quest FoodShare card, yet readily admits that federal policies require the state to “permit all members of a household to use that card, reducing the effectiveness of any enforcement efforts.” Requiring a photo to the Quest card won’t be free, yet the commission doesn’t address this hidden cost. Furthermore, it will likely result in confusion at checkout aisles in grocery stores across the state, resulting in families in need being denied the very food they need to survive. While I recognize the need to crack down on fraud in the FoodShare program, the GOP has lost focus of their task in their haste to require a photo ID on almost everything these days.

3.      Governor Walker already busted the unions, but he wants to take credit for it again – The section on overtime rules for public workers takes credit for changes already set in motion by the Republican anti-collective bargaining 2011 Act 10. In fact, the commission’s report takes credit for savings that it even admits are already under way.

4.      Governor Walker’s inconsistency on tax cheaters – I was glad to see the commission report recommend spending an additional $10 million each year to hire more revenue agents to crack down on tax cheats. When Governor Walker said publicly he supports passing all the recommendations in the report, I thought that meant he’d support investing more money to crack down on tax cheats to bring in even more revenue to the state. But that doesn’t seem to be the case since the Walker administration is attempting to cut $2 million that is supposed to go towards hiring more revenue agents. So, how can the Governor pledge to spend more money to crack down on tax cheats while cutting the current budget for the same purpose? Is Governor Walker’s administration going to get tough on tax evaders or not?

5.      Everyone loves a budget gimmick – We were led to believe this commission was going to find new savings through clamping down on waste, fraud and abuse in state government. Yet, $50 million of the report relies upon a suggestion that the state require agencies to lapse funds each year, something that both Democratic and Republican legislatures and Governors have required in various amounts for the last several biennial budgets. While this has been used to balance the budget, I would hardly call this waste, fraud or abuse of government. 
Wisconsinites are getting tired of the double-speak from our Governor. Scott Walker made a campaign promise and in my opinion, he hasn’t lived up to it.

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