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The Governor’s Phone-y Budgeting

April 8, 2009

By now you have certainly heard about all the taxes Governor Jim Doyle wants to raise to feed his $4.5 billion increase in state spending. But in addition to the new taxes he has in store for high income earners, motorists, businesses, smokers, investors, etc., he has another sneaky new revenue source in mind: your phone.


In the Governor’s current budget proposal, there are no fewer than three instances where he is jacking up your phone bill to help fix his budget problems.


First, Wisconsin cell phone users have been paying a fee each month to pay for improvements to the 911 system that helps dispatchers locate cell phone callers in an emergency. The state’s utility regulation agency was planning to refund $25 million to cell phone users after it became apparent the 911 system improvements cost less than expected. In his budget proposal, the Governor is swooping in and intercepting that money meant for people with cell phones and using those dollars for government programs instead.


Second, the Governor’s budget funds public libraries by raiding something called the Universal Service Fund, which is an itemized charge on your phone bill. The original purpose of the USF was to ensure that poor, disabled and rural people could have access to a telephone. While public libraries are important, this is not the way to fund them. In fact, the Governor’s $24 million raid might run contrary to federal law.


Third, the Governor wants to add $420,000 in new fees on phone companies, which would fund state agents to investigate complaints about phone service. Like any fee on a business, the consumer (in this case anyone with a phone bill) is the one who pays the bill in the end. Adding insult to injury, the language of the Governor’s budget proposal specifically states that phone companies would not be able to itemize the Governor’s new charge on your bill. Your bill would go up and your phone company would be prohibited by the Governor from telling you why!


If you would like to discuss any of this with the Governor on your soon-to-be more expensive phone, he can be reached at 608-266-1212.


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