I got a sense from Sen. Chris Larson and some others in Wisconsin that the Governor and his Republican allies had run amok in the Capitol before attention was paid to their machinations due to the assault on public workers. But I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw this come across the transom:

Madison – Today, Governor Scott Walker signed Special Session Assembly Bill 5 which requires a 2/3s vote to pass tax rate increases on the income, sales or franchise taxes.

“I went to work today, met with my cabinet, and signed legislation that will help government operate within its means,” Governor Scott Walker said. “Wisconsinites can’t turn to raising taxes to balance their own family budgets when times get tough. This bill will ensure that we don’t kick the can down the road for a quick budget fix only to slap a long-term tax hike on the backs of Wisconsin taxpayers. I thank Senator Leah Vukmir and Representative Tyler August for their leadership on this issue.”

That’s hilarious framing on that one, that the bill makes sure that long-term solutions aren’t ushered in under the guise of a short-term budget fix. Wherever have I heard that one before? This permanent restriction on revenues was put through in a special session on the budget, not the regular legislative cycle.

Being from California, I’m pretty clear what the implications of a Prop 13-style supermajority requirement for taxes will do. It will basically destroy government as they know it in Wisconsin, ratcheting down the ability for the state to collect the revenue needed to provide a basic level of services. If you liked the efficient, responsive government we’ve seen over the last three decades in California, you’re going to love it in Wisconsin.

This is really depressing. The fight is still ongoing over public employee union rights, but without the ability to obtain needed revenue, I don’t see how they’ll matter a whole lot. The state government will say their hands are tied and that they must have concessions, and either the workers will suffer, or the recipients of their services. Revenues, half of what a budget comprises, have now been walled off. This is a budget crisis requiring shared sacrifice, says Scott Walker, but that sacrifice doesn’t extend to any Wisconsinite who doesn’t receive government services.

Good Lord.

David Dayen

David Dayen