Find a way to get through the current crisis first. ^p

Just in case anyone hadn’t noticed, the country—indeed, the world—remains in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, which in addition to sickening and killing hundreds of thousands also has ripped the foundation out from under the global economy.

Millions of Americans remain out of work. Businesses are suffering incredible losses of revenue, and it’s an open question how many will survive.

No one has any idea when all that may end so a sense of normalcy can resume.

Question: Does that sound like the right environment for governments to ask citizens to pony up large sums of additional money?

Well. Consider:

  • The Janesville school district wants voters to approve $59 million in additional costs during November’s election.
  • In Clinton, two referendum questions will ask voters for more than $30 million.
  • Blackhawk Technical College will have a referendum on the ballot asking for $32 million to pay for facilities.

Anybody else? Might as well go for it while people have their wallets out, right?

Look, let’s make this clear. We are not stating any opinion on the relative merits of these plans and related referendums.

We do think the timing is all wrong.

The pandemic has resulted in much suffering for people and businesses—you know, taxpayers—and one net result is a tremendous revenue hit for state budgets. All across Wisconsin municipalities and school districts are highly dependent on state shared revenues to help cover local operating costs. There’s a very strong likelihood the state won’t have enough money to go around and shared revenue freezes or declines could be in the offing. Meanwhile, will there be pressure from Madison to raise taxes or fees to make up for the shortfall, since state government constitutionally must balance its budget? Who knows?

It’s a lock, though, that every city, town and school district will be struggling just to maintain the status quo and pay for what they already have in place. In that situation expecting people and businesses to dig deeper seems out of touch.

The right recipe for local government, instead, comes down to two words: Get by. That includes referendums. And other controllable spending, like granting raises.

This tumultuous and uncertain time won’t last forever. America is a resilient place. Americans have overcome challenges before and will do so again. When they do … ask them then.