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EDITORIAL: Budget bill should be limited to dollars and sense

When the Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker start talking about the state's budget, one would think the discussion might be limited to issues related to the spending of taxpayer dollars.

Sadly, the state's budget bill often morphs into something that incorporates measures that go well beyond dollars and cents.

Case in point, this year's budget included a provision prohibiting local governments from passing ordinances addressing public health issues by basing them on established nutritional standards.

Some local governments, like New York City, have made big headlines by trying to make a dent in the growing obesity problem. But some Wisconsin officials don't want that happening here, saying people should be allowed to make their own choices when it comes to diet and drink.

There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue, but the public was given little opportunity to fully weigh in on the matter. When such measures are wrapped into a larger legislative bill, the merits of various proposals cannot be debated as a separate issue. The plan is simply pushed forward and approved, not because it's a great idea but because no one wants to vote against the budget bill.

Such tactics are getting tiresome for voters and elected officials should take note. If a proposal can be introduced and stand on its own, so be it. But to attach an idea to unrelated legislation and hide it from the normal committee process and public discussion is bad government.

To us, it's only common sense that proposals be discussed and approved based on their own merits. Perhaps it's time for legislators to place limits on their own powers and pledge to improve governmental transparency by refraining from such tactics in the future.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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