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Republicans fight the good fight 
but some taxes are still going up

October 24, 2007

Wisconsin is already a tax hell and the "deal" to break the state budget battle makes things a lot worse. The $1 a pack increase in the state cigarette tax will take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the state economy and continue to feed the state spending monster.

Still, Republican leaders, particularly Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, deserve credit for fighting off virtually every other tax hike proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle and the Democrats. The gas tax hike? Dead. Statewide health insurance mandate? Dead. Hospital tax increase? Dead, despite desperate lobbying by the big hospitals in favor of it.

The tax for the Kenosha-Milwaukee commuter train? Shot down, but not dead.

Huebsch and the Republicans were at a 2-1 disadvantage with the Democrats holding the state Senate and the governorship. But Huebsch and Assembly Republicans made it clear that unless the Dems caved on the gas and hospital taxes, thereíd be no new budget. The Republicans got much more of what they wanted than did the Democrats.

In the meantime, 24 Assembly Republicans and two Democrats have to decide if they are liars. All have taken the famous "pledge" to oppose all tax hikes forever. The language in the Citizens For Tax Reform pledge is not ambiguous. It reads: "I pledge to the taxpayers and to all the people of this state that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to raise taxes." If any of the pledge signers votes for the budget deal, they will be exposed as liars. I donít think they can imagine the hell they will have to pay for it.

* * *

A talented young athlete from the Watertown area named Daniel Staller moved to Cleveland over the summer. Daniel, an incoming senior, attended a couple of practices of his new schoolís soccer team. Homesick and desiring to finish high school with his friends, Daniel prevailed on his mother to move back home.

Daniel has gone on to star as the quarterback of the football team at little Maranatha Baptist Academy. The team had a 7-2 record and qualified for the Division 6 state high school football tournament. But the creeps who run the WIAA, the institution that governs high school sports in Wisconsin, have forced Maranatha to forfeit its first six wins and declared the team out of the state tournament. They ruled that Danielís two practices in Cleveland make him ineligible to participate in sports at Maranatha.

Itís a rule, you know. And with the WIAA, no rule can ever be less important than any kid. First of all, itís a stupid rule. Designed to discourage kids from transferring to private schools, the rule makes it a virtual crime to consider trying a different school. More importantly, Maranatha did nothing wrong and the Stallers didnít deserve to be punished.

Daniel Staller goes to school at Marantha. Itís not like some future Peyton Manning was recruited to play at Arrowhead. Heís a good football player at a nice little school. To destroy his senior year and ruin the football season of all of his teammates over an arcane rule is beyond mean-spirited. It is cold-blooded and cruel.

Thereís a reason why the WIAA is staffed by a bunch of burnouts. (Check out their résumés.) They are taking out their own frustrations over their unfulfilled lives on kids who actually have futures.

* * *

Ten years ago, a horse I co-owned named Captain Bodgit was one of the favorites to win the Kentucky Derby. At that point, I had never picked the winner of the Derby. Not ever. In attempt to help my horse win, I used this column to predict the race would be won by the only horse I thought was capable of beating the Captain, Silver Charm.

Silver Charm won by a head. So much for jinxing. Iíve gone on to pick several Derby winners since then. Alas.

On Saturday, Unbridled Belle, co-owned by me, will be one of the favorites to win the Breeders Cup Distaff, the richest race in the world for female horses on the dirt. The race sets up perfectly for her as a lot of speed horses will create a pace scenario conducive to her big closing kick. Sheís training wonderfully and comes off a win in the Distaffís most important prep race. While itís a tough field of 14, thereís only one horse I think may be able to beat Unbridled Belle. Her name is Lady Joanne.

I learned my lesson from the Silver Charm debacle. Unbridled Belle will win Saturday and Lady Joanne will be second.

* * *

I see Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson wants to spend $30,000 worth of taxpayersí money on membership dues. I seriously wonder if any private business in the entire city of Waukesha spends as much money on memberships.

* * *

Itís been 18 days since Pabst Farms boss Peter Bell said heíd have a replacement within 60 days for General Growth as developer of the siteís lifestyle center (open air mall). Tick ... tick ... tick.

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


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