Today, the Journal Sentinel editorial board issued a critical opinion of Governor Walker’s State of the State address. In their estimation, the economic growth under Walker’s watch has precious little to do with his policies, and the tiny role he has to play as governor in the massive vortices of the state’s economy is being squandered by his preference for election politics.

We have a surplus, they argued. More money needs to be spent on poverty and education programs.

Conversations about investing more money in education are always tricky. Clearly, a quality education is the foundation and starting point for a civically engaged and economically productive society. You want good citizens? Improve education. You want skilled workers? Improve education. You want innovative thinkers? Improve education so their impressionable minds have room to grow.

On the flipside, taxpayers aren’t a personal ATM for politicians to throw money at a problem mindlessly. Taxpayers don’t want to hear about how more money is needed for education while public schools continue to flounder at graduating students and preparing them for college. They want politicians to replicate models that work, not pay more for the same results.

We need to think outside the box and provide alternatives for hardworking parents who live in underperforming school districts. We need to reward successful schools -- private and public alike – with opportunities to compete for tuition dollars. Politicians are more interested in preserving government institutions than they are at helping children in struggling communities. When it comes to education, one size does not always fit all. Thus, saying more money should be invested in education doesn't mean much without a specific plan.

Also, I found myself disagreeing with the editorial's commentary on public sector unions. They believe that Walker neutered public sector unions as political “payback.”

A good question to ask is, payback for what? Perhaps it was payback for years of forcibly extracting union dues from workers, despite their own political preferences, to finance just one political party. Approximately 90-98% of all public sector labor contributions given to political candidates go to Democrats.

Personally, I don’t believe Walker signed Act 10 to shut off big labor’s funding pipeline to Democrats. The primary impetus for Act 10 was giving local governments more flexibility (tools) to manage their affairs; turning off the spigot for Democrats was just an added benefit.

You see, Walker experienced firsthand the influence of public sector unions. Despite a pension scandal in 2002 that rocked Milwaukee County, at no point in time did AFSCME Council 48, the union representing Milwaukee County employees, recognize a need to make concessions.

As County Executive, Walker essentially had two choices during budget time: raise taxes on a financially strapped constituency or furlough county employees. The vast bulk of the county budget – consisting of healthcare costs and unfunded pension liabilities – was essentially nonnegotiable.

The Journal-Sentinel editorial board also pointed out that it was unnecessary for Walker to eviscerate public sector unions to achieve his policy goals.

I am curious to hear how the JS Editorial Board would have done it differently. If elected governor for a term, would they have let unions retain their ability to bargain over healthcare and pension costs? How do you keep public sector unions whole while also giving local governments the tools to manage their budgets with an eye toward the taxpayer?

I’m all ears. Read more from Journal Sentinel: Follow us: @JournalSentinel on Twitter

Wisconsin - Scott Walker

Recently, a Journal Sentinel editorial criticized Republicans for going too far and making it too difficult for individuals to file complaints against school districts for race-based Indian mascots and team names. The JS editorial board, quite simply, observed that requiring petition signatures from no less than 10% of the school district’s student body population is setting the bar too high for accusers.

Presuming they are right – that the bar is too high and too difficult to satisfy – where do they suggest the bar should be set? The editorial reads,

“That's a tall hurdle to jump, and it presumes that the question is whether district residents are offended by the use of mascots and names that reflect stereotypes of Indians or other minorities. That is not the question. The question is whether the use of such names and mascots promotes stereotypes and attitudes that by their very nature are offensive.”

Ostensibly, it’s easier to conjecture about what is “by nature” offensive than it is to author legislation that uses local control to weed out frivolous complaints. For instance, a case can be made that “Washington Redskins” is an offensive team name, in part, because redskins has been used increasingly in a pejorative way over the years. It is more difficult to make the case, however, that “Mukwonago Indians” is an offensive name.

It's difficult because reasonable people disagree about the name being offensive. In cases like these, the burden of proof should rest with the accuser and only after support is gathered by members of the local community. Otherwise, proving that a team name is "by nature" offensive will just be an act of futility.

Adding to the confusion is the feigned outrage by Democrats over the bill.

"You can't call me a nigger and it's OK," Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), told her colleagues on the Senate floor. "We should not be able to call them savages, redskins or even Indians."

Adding her two cents was freshman Senator Nikiya Harris (D-Milwaukee),

"The audacity of white people telling people of color what this is and what this ain't! This is a race issue. This nonsense that this ain't a race issue; this nonsense that we're making this up — really? This is racism!"

There are two distinct claims being made. Taylor is advocating for a limit on free speech evoking emotive and vulgar language to make a point. (Does anyone believe we should start using the N-word at the State Capitol?)

Harris seems to be maing a broad-brushed claim that white people are unqualified to examine or speak authoritatively on matters of race. This is actually good to know. I’m curious if she is willing to say that only judges of color should preside over cases that involve racism or race-based discrimination. If not, anything else would seem to be audacious.

For Democrats to denounce bills based exclusively on the ethnic background of those who propose them is unwarranted, embarrassing, and inexcusable. It also is suggestive of losing the argument. Despite what they think, Democrats don’t own minority issues. They don’t get to speak authoritatively for me on what bills are racist. To suggest that only minority legislators can speak to matters of race is nothing more than political maneuvering and a possible foreshadowing of what's to come in 2014.

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