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Gutless governance
Budget woes summarized in one sentence

June 3, 2009

The state budget passed by the Democrats in a legislative committee and to be voted on in the state Assembly next week is the worst public policy document in the history of the state of Wisconsin. Despite that, I can tell you what’s wrong with it in just one sentence.

The Democratic budget will drive high-income earners out of the state by raising the income tax and the state’s tax on capital gains while forcing further layoffs at major manufacturers like Harley-Davidson by increasing the taxes on their out-of-state earnings and will drive up the cost of senior living by doubling the state’s tax on nursing home residency and gouge motorists by costing them 6 cents for every gallon of gas with a new oil franchise fee along with exploding the cost of telephone service by creating a new $9-a-year tax on every single cellular or landline phone which will be especially tough on university students because University of Wisconsin tuition is being raised 5 percent while financial aid is being slashed for all students except illegal immigrants because they will be given in-state tuition at the same time the state becomes a lawsuit haven with the toxic provision that individuals who are only 20 percent at fault can be forced to be responsible for 100 percent of the damages in any civil award which will benefit trial lawyers who also get a windfall with the new requirement that motorists increase their auto liability insurance which will raise premiums at the same time property owners are going to be hammered by massive local tax increases as their communities deal with major cuts in state aid but have to pay for the doubling of the state garbage tax on landfill dumping which will only partially be offset by earmarks like $43,000 for recycling bins in Wrightstown which seems like a small amount when compared to the creation of a Regional Transit Authority in southeastern Wisconsin which is being funded by an increase of a full 1 percent in the Milwaukee County sales tax with half the money going to the parks system although the biggest increase of all will be in school property taxes because the budget gets rid of the so-called QEO or Qualified Economic Offer which put limits on annual increases in teacher pay which will now be passed on to taxpayers because revenue limits on local school districts will be increased with a series of new exemptions at the same time the brand new hospital tax that was enacted a mere four months ago is raised another 20 percent before its ink was even dry just as social policy is radicalized by allowing all gay and unmarried heterosexual couples to tap lavish state health insurance benefits by registering their domestic partnerships even though those couples will have to pay dramatically higher electric and gas bills along with the rest of us because of the big increase in the state low-income energy assistance program which seems like a crime but the actual criminals will be getting a giant break because the budget will release thousands of felons from prison before their sentences are up while development is going to be slowed on many new construction projects because of the new requirement that all workers be paid union scale on any project that receives public subsidies even as a terrible new provision is created that will result in the unionization of every single home health care worker in the state which will make it much harder for seniors in need of services to remain in their own homes and will drive out of business many of the smaller home health care agencies but even younger people are hit hard with a big tax on all digital downloads even as the cost of both birth and death certificates is doubled and the tax exemption for health insurance is eliminated.

Other than that, the budget is just fine.

* * *

The most indefensible part of the Democrats’ money grab is that most of it is in the form of hidden fees that consumers won’t even know they are paying. The creation of a single union for all home health care workers, for example, will drive costs for small agencies that provide in-home care to elderly through the roof. The average senior will never know it is Jim Doyle and the Democrats doing the gouging and not the agency.

Likewise, the doubling of the state landfill tax is a major new cost for municipalities that will result in higher property taxes. Local mayors and village presidents will get the heat for passing along a cost mandated by the state.

Ditto for the oil franchise fee, which will increase the cost of a gallon (about $1 for every 17 gallons) and the property tax increases that will result from the end to the caps on teacher pay. The provision that makes individuals liable for up to 100 percent of damages when they are only minimally responsible will drive up insurance premiums while the motorist who sees car insurance rates go up because of the higher minimum coverages will no doubt blame the greedy insurance companies and not the state. Even the utility and telephone tax increases will be buried in bills that consumers never bother to read, especially now than many pay them online. The digital download tax will be added to the cost of every purchase with the state’s new cut being largely invisible.

This is gutless governing. Democrats have made this state a tax hell and are now determined to make it even less affordable but don’t have the guts to do their taxing in the open.

(Mark Belling is the host of a daily WISN radio talk show. His column runs Wednesdays in The Freeman.)


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