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EDITORIAL: Use collected money for the stated purpose

In November, Wisconsin voters sent a message to legislators about the practice of taking money from a state designated fund and using it for something else.

Voters in more than 50 counties overwhelmingly approved a non-binding referendum to prevent government officials from taking money from the transportation fund for use in other projects.

In light of those results, a number of state legislators are proposing a bill that would take the idea a step beyond protecting just the transportation fund.

State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and other legislators are circulating a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit legislative raids on all segregated funds for uses unconnected to the fund's established purpose.

In the past, state officials have regularly raided several segregated funds to find money for other things.

Included in past fund transfers is more than $1.6 billion over 10 years from the transportation fund; $200 million from the Injured Patients Compensation Fund; $140 million from energy conservation programs; and $7 million from the Agrichemical Management Fund since fiscal year 2000.

Such raids are a terrible practice and should be stopped. If a segregated funds has been established by the state for a specific purpose, it seems almost criminal (or at the very least unethical) to take that money and spend it on something different.

It's time to restore the integrity of the segregated fund system and force elected officials to deal with budgetary issues head on rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The proposed constitutional amendment would be the perfect plan for permanently addressing the issue.