I agree with Marc Eisen that Wisconsin's politicians should fight to get our state a fairer share of federal spending ("State of Chumps," 10/9/09). Contrary to popular mythology, state and local spending in Wisconsin is well below the per capita national average, and Wisconsin's low ranking in federal aid is one reason it's increasingly difficult to fund schools and other critical government services.
Politicians can help by taking steps to tap additional aid. The governor and Legislature did that earlier this year, when they enacted a new assessment on hospitals, which leverages substantial federal Medicaid funding to hike reimbursement rates and insure low-income childless adults.
In contrast, state lawmakers have barely touched our share of a $5 billion contingency fund in the federal stimulus bill for job training, growing welfare caseloads and emergency assistance. The federal dollars require a 20% match, which discouraged state budget-writers from tapping the money. Yet California, which is in far worse fiscal shape, plans to utilize its share of the funding by identifying local spending that can be counted as matching funds.
Wisconsin should follow that example.
Jon Peacock, research director, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families
Marc Eisen correctly notes historic and political reasons for Wisconsin being near the bottom in terms of federal dollars. But while many Wisconsin leaders (Proxmire, Klug) were not advocates of bringing home the bacon, others (Aspin, Obey) have been successful. Eisen fails to mention Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's efforts to fund projects on East Washington Avenue, State Street, Beloit, Baraboo, etc. I ran both her and Congressman Aspin's district offices and think Tammy's record of winning dollars for this district is really impressive.
Marc Eisen argues that Wisconsin should be fighting harder to receive federal funding. I disagree. If every state received as much federal funding as it contributed, there would be no point in having the system. These funds are meant to help ailing states, and we should see our low rank among federal aid recipients as evidence that our state is doing just fine.