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OPINION - Blowing it on tax cuts

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  Republicans at the state capital are blowing it on tax cuts. Governor Walker proposed a $500-million package of income and property tax cuts a month ago during his state-of-the-state address. You remember the Governor’s argument. We have a surplus. Taxpayers didn’t say “keep the change”. Walker says, correctly, that he never hears from people who tell him that taxes are too low or just right. People think their taxes are too high.

The hold-up is in the state senate, where the GOP has a three seat majority. Republicans can only lose two votes for a party-line proposal to fail. Just who in the caucus objects to the tax plan isn’t known. Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald says he doesn’t have the 17 votes needed to get a bill approved.

Here’s why Governor Walker’s proposal should be passed as-is:

  • The governor is not spending all of the surplus. It’s projected to be $911-million. His tax cut is about $500-million. Discount the sound bites where Scott Walker is accused of being reckless. Also discount talk about “spending money we don’t have”. Every budget is based on projected revenue.

  • Governor Walker is correct that a growing economy is the cure for the 2015-16 structural deficit. The Walker shortfall is one-sixth the size of the $3.5-billion shortfall in Jim Doyle’s last budget. If the state was able to chug along then, it can do so now with a better economy and a better financial steward in the Governor’s office.

  • For those who say “it’s only $100” (that’s the median property tax break the governor is proposing) – ask that person to open up their wallet and give you a C-note. Watch how big a deal $100 is. Even if you ask that same person to give you a twenty, I bet they’ll make a note and expect to be paid back.

But how are Republicans blowing it? Because they want to spend it, too. We’ve already had a new job training bill pass the legislature. It’s being paid for with the fat from surplus. It’s Republicans who want to move some highway construction projects up one fiscal year. It’s the surplus that makes that possible. There are reports from the capital that there are other GOP pet projects – mostly one-time expenditures – that are being lined up as possibilities now that the state is flush with cash.

This needs to stop. If you want a new project, cut or eliminate an old project. If your pet project can’t pass muster in a regular budget cycle, it isn’t any more worthy just because the state has extra cash on-hand.

Governor Walker realizes two things: Money that’s left in the hands of politicians gets spent. And spending tax dollars is a bipartisan activity.

Chris Conley

Image: Governor Scott Walker at Mid-State Technical College via wsau.com