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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Political Back-Alley Surgery

Imagine if a doctor were just about to cut you open on the surgery table.  All is well:  the surgeon is ready to go, the support crew is scrubbed and attentive, and the anesthesiologist is managing your drip so you are blissfully unaware of what’s going on.  You trust all will be well.

Then imagine an insurance company hack sulking into the surgery suite and telling the surgeon, “Would you mind taking a few shortcuts to save us some money?"

We have the political equivalent of shady back-alley surgery going on in the State Capitol, dressed up as the business of the state biennial budget.  The surgical team is the members of the Joint Finance Committee.  

The insurance industry equivalent from Rat’s little illustration above are the special interests, insisting on their own surgical procedures for the patient -- the state budget.  This Legislature's surgical team is all too willing to entertain diversions from normal operations of the budget. 

Sure, the budgeting process is rife with politics, but there were two surgical intrusions which caught Rat’s eye lately.  These intrusions are small, but not unlike how a little bacterium can cause a nasty infection, these intrusions are pernicious.

One would force local communities to go to the lowest common denominator – state standards – for controlling storm water runoff.  This one is a classic product of the home builders and construction industry, which doesn’t want to be bothered with how much dirt and mess their building practices, and their finished products, send to rivers and lakes.  Milwaukee or Mauston would not be free to manage their water; they'd be forced to go with weaker state standards, which of course the home builders will write for the DNR.

The other – clearly the handiwork of dairy industry defenders of factory farms -- would  make a mess or regulating big wells.   All the wells in an area affect all the water in that area.  Big Dairy interests inserted into the budget by the Joint Finance Committee a policy that would block anyone from calling the question with the DNR:  "Will this new well, along with all the others in the neighborhood, dry up the river there?"  It would essentially
give license to anyone drilling big wells pumping over 100,000 gallons a day to pump with impunity, never mind the impact on nearby lakes and creeks or other wells.

This gambit also attempts to kneecap lawsuits currently in the pipeline that call out DNR’s failure to consider so-called “cumulative impacts” of big wells.  

Just be glad you won’t go to the Joint Finance Committee to fix your gall bladder. They’d take your bile duct too, put in a spare part from someone else, and charge you an arm and a leg for it.