Kestell right to oppose policy budget stuffers

GIVE STATE REP. STEVE Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, credit for voting his convictions on the proposed 2015-17 state budget.

Kestell was one of only three Republicans to vote against the budget, which passed the state Assembly last week by a vote of 55-42.

Kestell said his reason for voting against the budget crafted by his party, which controls both houses of the state Legislature as well as the governorship, was simple – the budget contained too many non-fiscal policy items to make it palatable for him.

In discussing his vote with the Associated Press, Kestell made it clear that he supported the budget as a fiscal document, saying that it has “a good quality.”

But his objection was to 94 items in the budget identified by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau as policy, not budget, items – many of them controversial, partisan and/or divisive.

It’s a practice that many on both sides of the aisle, including Kestell, have railed against long and hard over the years.

Kestell’s was one of many Republican voices who opposed the practice, which essentially enacts items into law as part of the required biennial state budget without subjecting them to the full and open debate that matters of policy and law should receive, when it was practiced by Democrats during the time when they controlled both the state Capitol and the statehouse.

He was right to oppose the practice then, and right to oppose it now.

Among the policy items that would become state law if the budget is adopted and signed intact would legalizing bounty hunters in Wisconsin, allowing the collection of DNA samples from those arrested – not convicted – for felonies, repealing most local residency requirements for public workers, allowing the sale of some stateowned property without competitive bidding, and much more.

None of those have anything to do with the state budget and should be debated and considered separately and individually by our legislators.

“There’s so much in the budget that shouldn’t have been there,” Kestell told the AP. “The only reason they are there is a lot of people don’t like them. I couldn’t swallow hard enough to accept that.”

He couldn’t swallow that when it was done by Democrats, and he couldn’t when it was done by members of his own party, and Kestell deserves credit for that.

Some might say that it was an empty gesture, as the budget was pretty much a cinch to pass an Assembly overwhelmingly controlled by the Republican Party – by a 60 to 39 margin.

But at least 57 of Kestell’s fellow Republicans showed their hypocrisy on the issue of putting policy items in the state budget and voted for a budget chock-full of the kinds of things they castigated Democrats for filling the budget with for years and years.

For that Kestell deserves credit and admiration.

At issue:
Kestell no vote on budget
Bottom line:
Standing for his principles

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