March 1, 2011
A death of a thousand tax cuts
By Bob Menamin
The Wisconsin Legislature has had a collapse due to the dysfunctional leadership by Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, Majority Leader Scott Suder, and Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer. They sprung a surprise vote on the Assemby on February 25, without the proper procedure to move to a vote, allowing only 68 Assembly Representatives to vote before the voting was closed. The vote was held open for only 17 seconds before being closed resulting in a 51-17. Thirty-one representatives from voting. The violation of rules, procedure and decorum may result in a legal challenge, and is the culmination of the Republican leadership’s pattern of anti-democratic abuses of power.
This type of collapse of representative government is part of what led FightingBob.com editor and publisher Ed Garvey to convene an emergency session of the "People's Legislature" on Sunday. During The People's Legislature, I had the honor of speaking about the need for tax reform and overhaul of our methods of taxation. In my remarks, and in a FightingBob.com article I wrote in January I drew heavily upon the work of Gary Bahr of Belleville and maintains a website called fairtax.com.
Tax reform was avoided in candidate forums before the November 2010 elections sponsored by We The People, a collection of media groups and others. Similiar media groups would not allow questions on unfair taxes to be included in candidate forums for the Dane County Executive race.
The problem with taxes, is that lawmakers have exempted so much income tax, sales tax and property tax for their special interest contributors that there is not enough revenue for essential public services. This is accomplished by using 300 separate devices for avoiding taxes. The solution is to repeal or modify these exemptions and loopholes.
Governor Walker says his "budget repair bill" is about money and we have an emergency need to come up with $137 million savings to avoid cutting staff. This comes after he has given some $160 million tax breaks to business interests. In a 2006 article, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gave a small hint of what could be saved if exemptions were repealed for certain business entities just in sales tax alone. For legal services we would bring in $113 million, advertising $103 million, personnel services $79 million, computer services $136 million, archetectural, engineering and surveying services $69 million, management consulting and public relations $64.1 million, accounting services $59.4 million, hair salons, nail salaons and barbershops $29 million, and health clubs $3.3 million. The total for these servcies is $656.4 million, which could be done immedicately by the GOP majority if they were really in a hurry to plug the budget hole.
There would be no need for study, they could just do it. We could also throw in motor vehicles, aircraft and truck bodies, which are exempt if purchased by non-residents and taken out of the state immediately. And then for good measure we could throw in the booths at Miller Park which are exempt.
Is the answer to our government's fiscal problems solved by busting unions? Or is reforming a tax system that continues to give more and more tax exemptions?
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Thank you for this post, Bob. This issue doesn't get talked about enough. Partly, I think, because it's so complicated.
Also, if that was you that made the $250 bet with the Republican guest on Wisconsin Public Radio today, thank you for doing that, too. He's going to lose!
-Curt | Springbrook, Wisconsin | March 4, 2011