• WisBusiness

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday perks list includes naughty and nice in politics, business


By Tom Still
A source close to the toy industry has once again leaked a copy of Santa’s perks list for Wisconsin politicians and newsmakers. Here’s what the good boys and girls in Madison and Washington will reportedly find in their stockings this Christmas week. But they better not pout and they better not cry if an alert district attorney asks why gifts were delivered down chimneys after midnight.

Gov.-elect Scott Walker: Christmas came early for Republican Walker, who won the November election by 5 percentage points over Democrat Tom Barrett and seemingly took office within hours. His latest gift: Democrats fell short in a lame-duck session called to ratify labor contracts for tens of thousands of state employees. Look for Walker to join other GOP governors around the country in renegotiating public-employee deals.

Gov. Jim Doyle: As he concludes eight years as Wisconsin’s chief executive, Doyle will be remembered for his passion for improving health care and education – and for being caught in the crossfire of the worst recession in a generation. Santa’s gift is a smooth transition to whatever comes next… and a toy train, given the life-size version ran off the tracks.

U.S. Sen.-elect Ron Johnson: Remember him? He defeated incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in November and promptly went into hiding – or a prolonged congressional training camp. A fat sack of money to help Johnson trim the federal budget deficit would be nice, but with checked bags costing $20 each these days, Santa must travel light.

UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin: What do you give a Big Ten Conference chancellor whose football team is playing in the Rose Bowl? How about a new research building to rival anything on the East or West coasts? Nope, she’s already got that: It’s called the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. What Martin really needs is management flexibility for a campus unlikely to see a state budget increase. A gift certificate for yoga lessons will help her limber up.

Marty Beil and Russ Decker: These adversaries made headlines last week when Decker, a state Senate leader who lost his bid for re-election, crossed party lines to vote against the state employee contracts. Enraged, state employee union leader Beil called Decker a five-letter word that rhymes with “chore.” Santa’s gift to Beil is a thesaurus for future vocabulary challenges. For Decker, a bricklayer by trade, he’ll need a new union card to replace the Democratic Party card his caucus probably burned.

The Brothers Fitzgerald: It’s not every day that siblings rise through the ranks to run both houses of a state Legislature. Sen. Scott Fitzgerald is the majority leader in the Wisconsin Senate, now controlled by Republicans, while Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald has taken the reins as speaker in the Assembly, also held by the GOP. Now, the trick is to keep the new majorities in each house on task. Santa’s gift to the Fitz Boyz: T-shirts that read, “Mom always liked him best.”

Madison and Dane County politics: Even in a historic Republican election year, voters within a bicycle ride of the Capitol voted Democratic up and down the ballot. Never mind the cooling Madison economy, state government furloughs and stalled public employee contracts. With races for mayor of Madison and Dane County executive on tap for April 2011, will Madison voters remain true blue? Santa’s gift to the Emerald City: A reminder it’s OK to switch horses, especially when the one you’re riding pulls up lame.

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: Speaking of Madison politics, former Hizzoner Soglin is coming back for another run. To get back in the mood, Soglin needs one of the hottest toys of 2010 – the Matchbox “Stinky the Garbage Truck.”

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen: The state’s chief crime-fighter won another term in November, which means he’ll get another 2010 toy favorite under his tree – a “Spy Net Video Watch.”

Wisconsin’s congressional delegation: It’s tea-party popular these days to hate “earmarks,” which are congressional spending items included in various bills, sometimes as a means of garnering votes. Reviled or no, earmarks represent only three-tenths of 1 percent of all federal spending – with the other 99.7 percent usually dictated in presidential budgets. Given that Wisconsin typically ranks about 45th among the 50 states in its return on federal tax dollars, Santa wants all members of the Wisconsin delegation to remember that Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution reserves spending powers for Congress.

For Wisconsin’s rising political stars: In an era when sharp personal attacks and partisanship drive more good people away from politics than it attracts, it’s reassuring to know that some quality office-holders continue to be attracted to public service. That’s a gift to Wisconsin citizens. Happy holidays, everyone!

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

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