You know, I think Jay Bullock is a smart and thoughtful, albeit wrongheaded, commentator. He recently went mano-a-mano with Patrick McIhleran over the TPA. He claims victory, but I think he comes up short.
The problem with tax limitation measures he says is that government has these oh-so-unique costs that cannot be cabined by anything so prosaic as the rate of inflation or personal income growth. Government, you see, has to pay for ... people, while every other entity in the economy is paying for, I don't know, robots or something.
The cost of employing people (i.e., government workers) grows like corn in July, although please don't suggest that these people (i.e., government workers) are anything but underpaid and overworked.
Whether that cost comes from unfunded pension obligations, the staggeringly expensive health care market in Southeast Wisconsin, or the need to pay better to attract better workers, there is no question that the price of keeping a steady workforce increases faster than any of the numbers a TABOR-like amendment would allow Milwaukee County to follow.
Here's a tip to liberals who want to argue for more government spending in Wisconsin. Ix-nay on the ounty-cay ension-pay. No good can come from mentioning that. It is exhibit A for a TPA. The reason that the pension is underfunded is that the County made promises it could never afford. It is in financial shambles today because of that, not because Scott Walker is a big meanie.
I know that health care costs are skyrocketing. I am a member of the senior management team of a corporation that sees the same higher costs. But you know what? We don't get to respond to that by allocating ourselves more money. We have to ask the employees to contribute more or take it out of something else. Life is hard sometimes.
The fact is that every private employer is limited by something external to itself. It can't raise prices much higher than the rate of inflation. Absent some innovation or extraordinary effort on its own behalf, it can't expect to raise revenues at a rate that exceeds the growth in the economy.
The argument that government spending cannot be kept within some larger metric because of labor costs eventually collapses into an argument that government can't control its labor costs.
Why would that be? One possibilty is that the system of determining what those costs will be is dominated by those interest groups who have a unique interest in the outcome, i.e., public employee unions.
And that is precisely the argument for something like the TPA.
I think I know what Jay's response would be, but I think I'll let him, if he wishes, make it before I respond.