Editor's note: Lance Burri is freakishly busy preparing for the Republican National Convention, for a family event over the weekend in Racine, and for his lovely wife's birthday (Happy birthday Mari Jo!).
Thus, today we publish from the Best of Lance Burri Collection. Regular posting will continue at Badger Blog Alliance, and at FoxPolitics.net, and will return here next week.
The following column first ran on October 26, 2007.
November 2, 2006. Election Day. All across Wisconsin, voters swarmed to the polls.
Most of them voted for Democrats. It’s well-established: 2006 was a banner year for the Democratic Party, and a disaster for Republicans. That was true nationally. It was true here in Wisconsin.
True, but not total. Once all the smoke had cleared, the dead and wounded carried from the field, prisoners exchanged and terms presented, Republicans still held the field – just barely – in one place. The State Assembly.
Not by much. The Republicans’ eleven-seat majority was reduced to five: 60-39 before the election, 52-47 after.
And what kept Republicans in that slim majority?
Three hundred and forty-one voters. Seventy-eight of them in Cambria. A hundred and eleven in Medford. And in Westby, a hundred fifty-two.
Voters, in places most of us never heard of. Standing shoulder to shoulder, blocking the pass, staring down the maddened hordes of tax-crazed liberals and declaring with defiance: you ain’t coming though here.
Not on my watch.
These are the people who kept the tide from washing Wisconsin into liberal purgatory. Who stalled the takeover, bought us time – two years’ worth – to reorganize, rally, prepare.
Three hundred forty-one! Marching to the polls, finding the name of their Republican candidate, and voting. If they’d made a different decision, joined the other side instead, pulled the other lever, marked the other box, followed the arrow wrong…
…then three more Republicans - Gene Hahn, Mary Williams, and Lee Nerison - would have lost last November. Gone home. Private citizens. Instead of a bare majority in one-third of state government, Republicans would be the minority party everywhere. Democrats would control all. The Senate. The Governor. The Assembly.
All of it.
And the Wisconsin state budget wouldn’t have been signed this morning. It would have been signed back in June.
And it would have looked…different.
The cigarette tax would have been higher than a buck. That’s for sure. The oil tax: $280 million in higher gas prices, plus an expensive and embarrassing lawsuit when Doyle tried to “prevent” the oil companies from “passing the cost on to consumers.”
The hospital tax: $420 million in higher health care costs. The real estate transfer tax: $142 million added to housing costs. Higher taxes on corporations. On garbage. On the internet. On filing taxes.
No limits on property taxes. Repeal of the Qualified Economic Offer, which gives school districts leverage while negotiating teacher contracts. An overhaul, if not outright repeal, of school spending limits.
The point being, with Democrats in full control of the government, there’s no telling how high our taxes would go.
And I haven’t even mentioned the in-state tuition for illegal aliens; collective bargaining for UW employees; mental health insurance mandates (just to start); doubling, tripling, quadrupling of Stewardship Fund land purchases with no legislative oversight, and no public right to use that land.
Nor have I mentioned the Dems’ so-called “Healthy Wisconsin,” which shrewdly combines the biggest tax increase in U.S. history – $15 billion, if we can believe the estimates – with socialistic government control of prices and profits.
Liberals thought the Taxpayer Bill of Rights was going to turn Wisconsin into an economic backwater. Huh. You want to see an economic backwater?
Well, you can’t, thanks to those 341 voters.
Amazing, isn’t it? Nearly 2.2 million people cast votes in that election. Three hundred forty-one of them prevented all that.
On the other hand, the just-signed budget keeps spending at a lower rate than personal income growth, and includes tax cuts on retirement income, for health insurance premiums, and for college tuition. Plus tax incentives for people looking to invest money here in Wisconsin.
Yeah, I know, there was pork, and there were fee increases, and I’m sure other things will come to light over the next few weeks that we won’t like. Democrats did get some things they wanted. We didn’t get as much as we wanted.
We took some casualties, and that’s a fact. We gave some ground. Life isn’t as good for us as it would’ve been, had 2006 been a victory.
But boy, it could’ve been worse. It would have been worse, if not for that slim Republican majority in one-third of Wisconsin’s government. If not for those three hundred and forty-one.
We should keep that in mind, because there’ll be another call.
And we’ll need them to answer again.