Dennis Dresang shared the legacy of former Governor Patrick Lucey May 5.
“Lucey professionalized state government from part-time citizen boards to professional civil service. He reconceptualized taxes and spending to the system still with us. His term saw the most productive performance period, outdoing LaFollette,” Dresang said.
Growing up in rural Ferryville, shy Lucey wasn’t charismatic. He was described as analytical, professorial and demanding of staff.
Father Gregory Charles ran the family business, asking Lucy to join. He now faced a crossroads: business or politics? Faced with his fear of Joe McCarthy, Lucey chose politics.
In 1951, Lucey decided to marry, needing a career to support that. After turning to Jim Doyle, Sr, for advice, he became Dane County’s largest real estate dealer. By 1969, when running for Governor, he’d embarked on $500 million Wexford Village.
He was a progressive, with a reputation for bipartisanship, often reaching across the aisle. His first year in office, 50 years ago, his first initiatives were to create the UW System and to transform state taxing and spending systems. These were based on changes suggested by previous Governor Warren Knowles.
Local taxes at that time were rising 10% annually, because municipalities were responsible for schools and other taxes now elsewhere. Lucey was concerned about this burden on poorer communities. He created “equalization” formulas to give children the same education regardless of their community. He created a machinery and equipment tax exemption saying, “let’s tax income, not property.” He also developed property tax levy limits.
His ambitious agenda started as 24 items on one page; no-fault auto insurance was the only one not adopted during his term. He resigned to become Ambassador to Mexico when asked by President Carter.
His passion for social justice, opportunities for everyone to experience upward mobility, and problem solving are his legacy.
Dresang is Professor Emeritus and founding director of La Follette School of Public Affairs.
Our thanks to Dennis Dresang for his presentation this week and to Valerie Renk for preparing this review article. Our thanks also to Mystery to Me Book Store for selling books at our club meeting as a convenience to our members. If you missed our meeting, you can visit Mystery to Me Book Store in person or click on this link to order it at their book store online: https://www.mysterytomebooks.com/search/apachesolr_search/patrick%20lucey. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/wagy5bpFU7M.