By State Rep. Dan Knodl
The government bureaucracy can be an inefficient waste of taxpayer money. According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, there are currently 17 administrative departments within the executive branch tasked with enforcing laws enacted by the legislature. These agencies had a total budget in 2021 of $32 billion, and close to 32,000 employees. They do this by developing the state’s administrative code, which currently runs 12,534 pages. These regulations impact every facet of our lives.
Just by looking at these few numbers, you can understand the power these agencies hold in our state and why they need to be held accountable if they are not living up to our expectations. As an elected state representative, I answer to my constituents every two years when I am up for reelection. Who holds these unelected bureaucrats’ feet to the fire when they are not doing their jobs effectively?
The most recent example of bureaucratic negligence has been taking place at the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). This department is responsible for issuing occupational licenses for everyone from doctors to architects to cosmetologists. There have been extreme delays over the past year in updating and issuing licenses. My office alone has received 10 contacts in recent months from constituents who have been waiting months just to be issued a license so they can either start or continue their profession. In most of these cases, DSPS cashed their checks immediately and then proceeded to take no action for months on end. These hardworking individuals are trying to make a living but are being prevented by this government entity just because these bureaucrats are unable to figure out how to do their jobs effectively. During this workforce shortage, we need every able-bodied worker we can have.
This isn’t the only incident of malfeasance in the executive branch under Gov. Tony Evers administration. In 2020, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the Department of Health Services Secretary-designee at the time, Andrea Palm, overstepped her authority in trying to extend the lockdown. This past August, the Legislative Audit Bureau released an audit that revealed serious mismanagement at the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), beginning under Secretary Caleb Frostman and continuing under Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek, whom Governor Evers appointed after firing Secretary Frostman. The audit identifies serious failures by DWD in resolving appeals to department decisions regarding claims. Under federal law, 80 percent of appeals must be resolved within 45 days. In Wisconsin, only 17.5 percent of appeals met this benchmark, and the average appeals process took 67 days. Illinois and Minnesota have been able to issue compliant appeal decisions over 70 percent of the time. Yet another example of the incompetence of our state agencies!
Trying to rein in these state agencies under Tony Evers has been difficult. When the governor’s and Democrats’ main political philosophy is “big government,” bureaucratic failures go unchecked at best, and in some cases are empowered. That is why some of my Republican colleagues and I are preparing to introduce a package of bills that would reform parts of unemployment insurance because it should be easier to enter the workforce, not harder.
State Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) represents the 24th Assembly District.