Todd Berry Analyzes Impact Of Fewer Candidates On Ballot

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Todd Berry Analyzes Impact Of Fewer Candidates On Ballot

Premiere Date: 
June 20, 2014

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance president on the effect of a drop-off in candidates.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Our tax man is out tonight with some thoughts on the non-competitive nature in the state legislature heading into elections. Todd Berry runs the numbers on candidates with us now. Todd, thanks for being here.

Todd Berry:

Thank you for having me.

Frederica Freyberg:

Why so the departure from tax or budget number to looking at numbers of candidates?

Todd Berry:

The reason we look at it is because these are the people that are going to write the next state budget. The conclusion is we’ve probably just elected close to half of them by virtue of filing their nomination papers and winning their party's nomination, because they have no general election major party opposition.

Frederica Freyberg:

So tell us a little bit more about this. How does this work out, that we already know who these people are going to be?

Todd Berry:

Well, we have 40 of the 117 districts that are up where there's only one candidate running, so a third of the seats are already decided. And then a lot of those seats, there may be a primary in one party or the other, but after that they're home free. And in primaries they tend to run to the right or to the left, so they're not playing to a general election audience. And then in many cases they don't have any kind of third-party or independent candidate opposing them in the general, either.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what's the explanation for this?

Todd Berry:

Yeah. Well, I think there's a number. You know, redistricting is one thing I think people will cite, and that's certainly a possibility. I think it's interesting that the numbers are down, however, from 2012, which was after redistricting as well. I mean, markedly down, and they're at decade lows or near lows. And I think that suggests that the public is tired, discouraged, disgusted with the dysfunction of legislative bodies, nationally and in the state. And I think it also reflects in the potential candidate pool their sense that, you know, I'm not going to stick my neck out there because the place is-- isn't going to allow me to be me and isn't going to allow me to get anything done.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what does that spell for policy-making and budget writing?

Todd Berry:

Well, so we pretty much know the cast of characters for the next budget in terms of majority of the seats, particularly in the assembly. It's over half. We don't know who the governor is, but as things now stand, you know, the Republicans are 60% of their way toward the number of seats they have now, so it looks like they'll come back. The senate is up for grabs a little bit more, but I guess-- And I'm not a pundit, but the odds marginally favor them, so we probably know the makeup of the legislature. So the only thing left to decide is the governor's race.

Frederica Freyberg:

So status quo in terms of what we've been seeing.

Todd Berry:

Probably, yeah. And, again, we don't know the governor's race.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, in terms of budget writing going forward, or policy-making kind of related to that, what about the latest revenue numbers that were off from projections? And not in a good way.

Todd Berry:

Yeah.

Frederica Freyberg:

What kinds of changes might you expect to see or might you encourage people to make?

Todd Berry:

Well, this is why I have for years and years-- And you know I'm boring on this subject. And that is to say it's not smart to pass budgets with tiny, little margins for error because the world never works the way you think it is and we always end up with a deficit. And then two things happen that nobody likes. We raise taxes and we cut programs. So to the degree that we built up a large surplus and now we're in the process of pulling it back down by next year, any margin for error of $100 some million or so pretty much puts us right back on the brink again. And $100 million is zip-a-dee-doo-dah in the world of tax collection. It’s, you know, a couple days.

Frederica Freyberg:

You don't anticipate though, nor can I imagine anyone anticipating, if it's status quo in the legislature that anyone would raise taxes.  

Todd Berry:

Probably not, although they have an interesting challenge, and this is going to become very clear in the campaign, and that is we have a transportation funding problem in this state that's gone unresolved by both parties for a very long time and they're going to have to do something. They're either going to have to stop building and repairing roads, or they're probably going to have to raise the gas tax.

Frederica Freyberg:

I can't imagine that happening, but there's a lot in this state that you can't imagine happening that does.  

Todd Berry:

Well, people don't particularly like to get their teeth jarred as they're riding over old roads either.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Todd Berry, thanks very much. 


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