13 Ways Walker’s Budget Takes Accountability Away

February 12, 2015

On Feb. 3, in his budget address, Governor Scott Walker said one of his goals was to “use common sense reforms to create a government that is limited in scope and—ultimately—more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the public.”

Here are 13 ways his budget actually would make government less accountable to the public.

1. Making the board of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection advisory

This change eliminates citizen rule-making and policy-making.

2. Making the board of the Department of Natural Resources advisory

This change eliminates citizen rule-making and policy-making.

3. Making the University of Wisconsin system into a public authority

Actually, this would reduce the oversight that the public, through the legislature, has over the UW.

4. Eliminating the Educational Approval Board

The six-person board, appointed by the governor, oversees private post-secondary schools. Walker proposes to split its duties between the Department of Financial Institutions and the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. This may result in diminished regulation of the burgeoning for-profit colleges in Wisconsin.

5. Eliminating the cap on students attending private schools

Citizens, through their local school boards, provide maximum accountability for the education of their children. By funneling more students into private K-12 schools, with public funds, Walker will be reducing that accountability. And private schools are less accountable to the legislature than public schools.

6. Creating a state board to approve proposals for new independent charter schools

Political appointees, rather than locally elected school boards, would now get to create charter schools.

7. Allowing students in urban districts to attend any independent charter schools

In other districts, the local school board needs to approve the application to a charter school. This would take matters out of the hands of the elected school board.

8. Reducing the oversight of the Building Commission

This board, which has representatives of both political parties on it, used to meet on a Wednesday once a month to review building items. Now there would be a “passive review process,” which means that projects (including those that require public borrowing) would be automatically approved unless a majority of the members of the Commission voted to meet on them.

9. Scrapping the independence of the Judicial Commission

Up to now, the Judicial Commission, according to its website, has consisted of “nine members, including one court of appeals judge, one circuit court judge, and two attorneys, all appointed by the Supreme Court; and five non-lawyer members appointed by the governor with Senate confirmation.” Walker wants the state Supreme Court to run the whole thing, even though the Commission sometimes has had to investigate justices on that court.

10. Eliminating the Judicial Council

This council, created in 1929, “ is comprised of a Supreme Court justice; a Court of Appeals judge; four circuit court judges; one district attorney; three members of the state bar; two citizen members; and all of the following individuals (or their designees): the Director of State Courts, the chairs of the Senate and Assembly standing committees with jurisdiction over judicial affairs, the Attorney General, the chief of the Legislative Reference Bureau, the deans of the law schools of the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University, the State Public Defender, and the president-elect of the state bar,” according to its website. It makes recommendations about procedural rules and the administration of the courts. Walker proposes eliminating it altogether.

11. Removing Elected Officials from the Economic Development Board 

Walker proposes merging the Wisconsin Economic Development Board with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Authority Board. The WEDC Board has had state legislators on it. The new board would not. It would consist solely of private citizens appointed by the governor.

12. Eliminating the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board

Established in 1989, its mission, according to its website, is “ to provide leadership in the development of learning opportunities that empower Wisconsin citizens with the knowledge and skills needed to make wise environmental decisions and take responsible actions in their personal lives, workplaces and communities.” The board consists of seventeen members: President of the UW System, President of the Wisconsin Technical College System, Secretary of the DNR, Superintendent of Public Instruction, one majority and one minority party Senator, and “nine people representing the following sectors: Agriculture, Business and Industry, Conservation and Environmental Organizations, Energy Industry, Environmental Educators, Faculty of public and private institutions of higher education, Forestry, Labor, Nature centers, Museums, and Zoos.”

Walker proposes eliminating it altogether.

13. Eliminating the Rural Health Development Council

Established in 1989, its mission is to give advice “on matters related to the Wisconsin Loan Assistance Program for physicians, dentists, dental hygienists, and non-physician providers such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified nurse mid-wives.” Walker wants to eliminate both the Council and the Wisconsin Loan Assistance Program, which enables 15 to 21 health providers to work in underserved areas of Wisconsin. The Council, by statute, consists of 15 members. According to the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health, “The governor nominates 13 of the members, who are appointed through the advice and consent of the senate. These members serve five-year terms. In addition, the Secretaries of Commerce and Health and Family Services or their designees serve on the Council. The appointed members include:

  • A representative from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health,
  • A representative from the Medical College of Wisconsin,
  • A representative of the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority (WHEFA),
  • Two representatives of private lenders that make loans in rural areas,
  • Two representatives of health care facilities located in rural areas,
  • A physician,
  • A dentist,
  • A nurse,
  • A dental hygienist, and
  • A representative of public health services.
  • A representative of the farmer’s home administration is also included in the statute; however, no one has ever been appointed in this position.”