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Back in days of old, circa 2002, it came to the attention of Wisconsin citizens and news media that the popular former governor, one Tommy Thompson, who had resigned and gone to Washington, had left a huge state budget deficit behind.

The free-spending Thompson and a Republican-controlled legislature had dug a deep hole. When Gov. Jim Doyle took office in 2003, the state had a $3.2-billion deficit.

During the 2002 campaign, the focus was on the deficit, projected then for $2.8-billion, and what the candidates were going to do to fill the hole, the deepest in state history.

I remember burning the midnight oil to meet a Journal Sentinel deadline for a plan explaining, in detail, how my candidate would solve the problem. The proposals from the candidates were given front page coverage and analyzed and critiqued in editorial and opinion colummns.

On another occasion, in a pre-primary debate between the three Democratic candidates for governor on Wisconsin Public Television, the moderator basically said, "There's a $2.8-billion deficit. What are you going to do about it?" and walked off, leaving Kathleen Falk, Jim Doyle, and Tom Barrett to spend the next hour answering the question.

Contrast that with the 2010 race so far, with a $2-billion deficit projected for the next incoming governor.

The Republican candidates, Scott Walker and Mark Neumann, have proposed to fix things by cutting taxes for corporations and the richest taxpayers, which would cost a billion dollars and increase the deficit, to about $3-billion. What would they do or cut to balance the budget? We don't know and they won't tell.

This week, Democrat Tom Barrett rolled out a 26-page plan to "Put Madison on a Diet" and save more than $1-billion, about half of the projected deficit.

The response from the Republicans? WisPolitics reports:

Neumann and Walker declined Barrett's challenge today to offer specific spending cuts.

What a surprise! Neumann and Walker chose to criticize Barrett instead because -- guess what? -- they have no plans of their own. The two of them are going to continue to make impossible promises unless the news media begins to hold them accountable.

How about putting the two of them in a room with a TV camera for an hour to see how they solve the deficit problem?

While we wait for that, One Wisconsin Now has produced this video, "Break the Silence." Enjoy.

Submitted by xoff on