Public Policy Forum Blog

Try balancing the budget yourself

If I were a Wisconsin legislator, tired from the lack of progress in passing the 2007-2009 state budget, it might be fun to direct my angry constituents to a website that would allow them to try balancing the budget themselves.

This is exactly the option for Californians. By going here, you, too, can try to balance California's state budget by making a series of key decisions on both the revenue and expenditure side of the budget equation. In their own word's...

Next Ten is inviting all Californians to take the Budget Challenge, a nonpartisan Internet tool that lets you roll up your sleeves and create your own state budget. You call the shots on how much to spend on schools, the environment, healthcare, prisons and other state programs – and how to pay for them.

I tried to balance California's state budget and...I failed.

I ended up raising taxes across the board while cutting into health care for retired workers, capping the rate of growth at state universities, and reducing parole supervision. All that got me was a projected $1.2 billion dollar deficit and, presumably, a one-way ticket out of office.

Folks, it ain't easy.

Thus far, over 40,000 people have tried to balance the State of California's budget through this unique web-based tool. I would imagine that while many have failed, all have garnered a new appreciation for how hard it is to do just the minimum - maintain services and keep taxes under control. In an era when the public and the media are blamed for lack of engagement in the budget process, it makes me think that this type of educational tool could be a beneficial exercise for everyone in Wisconsin.