By Tom Still
MADISON – A source close to the toy industry has once again leaked a copy of Santa’s perks list for Wisconsin politicians and newsmakers. Here’s what the good boys and girls in Madison and Washington will reportedly find in their stockings this Christmas week. But they better not pout and they better not cry if an alert district attorney asks why gifts were delivered down chimneys after midnight.
Gov. Jim Doyle – A fat sack of money to help trim the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget deficit would be nice, but with checked bags costing $15 each these days, Santa must travel light. So let’s give Doyle a T-shirt that reads: “I’m the Democratic Midwestern governor who doesn’t sell Senate seats.”
Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton – No appointment offers from Obama until Doyle already has one he likes. It’s no secret that Lawton’s best shot to be elected governor would be for Doyle to leave in mid-term, but Doyle shows no signs of wanting out (or wanting to give Lawton that shot). Santa’s back-up gift to Lawton is patience.
U.S. Rep. David Obey – A sign that reads, “Federal stimulus line forms at the rear.” As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, few, if any, members of Congress will hold more sway over that trillion-dollar package than Obey. The veteran Democrat from Wausau will likely serve as a wary traffic cop, whistling pork-barrel violators from both parties to a halt.
Sen. Russ Feingold – A winning raffle ticket. In 1923, the senator’s grandfather bought the first Chevrolet truck made in Janesville. There’s even a picture of Max Feingold with the truck outside his grocery store. Eighty-five years later, Russ Feingold has bought a chance to win the last vehicle to roll off the assembly line in Janesville before GM shuts it down. Let’s hope the senator’s odds of winning are better than the chances GM will someday reopen the plant.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett – Cold tablets and flu shots for Milwaukee workers. With the worst recession in a generation under way, Milwaukee voters have imposed a sick-leave mandate on private businesses in the city. Start a business in Wauwatosa or Waukesha, and there’s no paid sick-leave requirement; start that same business inside city limits and you’re on the hook for up to nine paid sick days per employee. The goal these days is to create jobs – not to “runny nose” them out of town.
Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald – Continued peace in the family. Once the Legislature tackles the state budget, the affable “Brothers Fitz” will find it hard to claim Republican internal bargaining broke down because the two houses failed to communicate.
UW-Madison Chancellor Carolyn “Biddy” Martin – A long honeymoon. She’s following a tough act in retired Chancellor John Wiley, who helped elevate the university’s private fundraising into a different league. The combination of the financial market meltdown and the recession will make chasing donors harder, and it’s not as if the UW will get everything it asks in a tight state budget cycle. Tuition hikes, spending cuts or both will test Martin’s first year.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan – Room on the GOP’s national prospect list for 2012. Janesville Republican Ryan, who represents southern Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, is making no excuses for the GOP’s miserable 2008 campaign. He emerged as a leader during the bank bailout talks and the Big Three loan negotiations. Ryan believes the Republican Party must become more than a party of “angry white guys,” but will the angry white guys on talk radio tolerate him saying so?
Milwaukee’s water tech cluster – A brand that matches its potential. The region is finally on to something with its plans to build a water technology cluster around existing and emerging businesses and research institutions. But it needs a catchier name. Branding it the “Fresh Coast” reminds some people of a bar of bath soap. The “North Coast” serves as a multi-state and multi-nation Great Lakes contrast to the East and West coasts, but is it global enough? “World Water Hub” sounds like a bad Kevin Costner movie. “The Blue Tech Basin” might just work. Whatever the name, let’s settle on it soon and market Milwaukee’s hydro-tech expertise nationally and abroad.
Wisconsin’s anti-energy-growth crowd: A lump of low-sulfur coal. OK, we can all understand why building more coal-burning plants isn’t the greenest idea, but some enviropols want to keep the moratorium on new nuclear plants, fight the best sites for wind power and block transmission lines that import electricity. Sorry, but freezing to death in the dark is not an option.
For Wisconsin’s rising political stars: In an era when scandal and partisanship drives more good people away from politics than it attracts, it’s reassuring to know that quality office-holders continue to be attracted to public service. That’s a gift to Wisconsin citizens. Happy holidays, everyone!
Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.