During the past four years, there have been rare occasions when the Republican-controlled Legislature has disagreed with Gov. Scott Walker. But while going over several items in Walker's proposed budget a few weeks ago, members of the Joint Finance Committee voted to eliminate a provision in Walker's budget that would have stripped the policymaking power of both the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and Department of Natural Resources boards and turned them into advisory councils.
Former DATCP Board members Dick Cates and Mike Krutza wrote an op-ed piece that was published on Page 11 of the April issue of Wisconsin Agriculturist. They explained that "stripping the DATCP Board and DNR Board of policymaking authority would centralize power in the governor's office, marginalize the citizen boards and reduce public visibility.
"It is unclear what problem this proposal is attempting to solve," the two wrote. "As far as we can see, Wisconsin has been well-served by its citizen boards."
Cates and Krutza collectively served 19 years under Republican and Democratic administrations. Cates farms near Spring Green and is director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers. Krutza is a partner in Lighthouse Leadership and is retired CEO and president of Farm Credit Services of North Central Wisconsin.
"There is a big difference between a policy board and a mere advisory board," Cates and Krutza wrote. "A policy board has authority to act, not just offer nonbinding opinions at the request of a state agency. That means a policy board must be taken seriously. We think the DATCP and DNR boards have exercised this authority in a highly responsible and nonpartisan manner. They have proven their value over many years, on many difficult issues."
Exactly. The proposed change had no business being in the budget in the first place because it is a policy item, not a budget proposal.
Likely, many legislators on both sides of the aisle felt it was a ridiculous idea. And thanks to hundreds of calls to legislators from voters opposing the change, the proposal was eliminated.
The Joint Finance Committee has not voted on whether to reduce or approve Walker's budget proposal to cut $300 million in state aid to the UW-System. Stay tuned to see if the Joint Finance Committee and the Legislature continue to do the right thing.