Two years ago, I wrote a column in the Journal Sentinel called Fattening Frogs for Snakes. Go ahead and reread it. We think we know what the new state budget says, but we won't really know until the Governor finishes playing Scrabble with it. Wisconsin governors have extraordinary veto powers when it comes to appropriations bills. They can no longer cross out letters but they can cross out individual words and digits. They can line out numbers and write in smaller ones. They can, if they are clever and the words fall in a way that makes it possible, turn the law into the something that is completely inconsistent with - even the opposite of - what was passed. They can reduce spending and, as my column pointed out, Governor Doyle has managed to veto his way to an increase in spending. (Tommy Thompson was a master at this as well. We live in the time of the Puzzle Masters.)
Two years ago, I wrote:
No one would propose making the governor an elected kaiser who can create a wholly new budget, subject only to veto by two-thirds of both houses of the Legislature. His power is limited only by his ability to read legislation as a type of code. Take every third word on every other page, cross out each number that appeared in last night's Lotto drawing and we have a new law.
The point is not whether we like the effect of Doyle's vetoes. The budget should be determined by our democratically elected representatives subject to a veto by the governor, rather than the cryptology of a Scrabble king and his retinue of bright young geeks who can complete the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in 12 minutes. In pen.
If a future Republican governor figures out how to cut taxes by folding the budget into origami figures, it'd still be wrong.
They don't make community columnists like they used to.