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Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013

Walker’s $100 Million Tax Scam

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Golly, can anybody in this state think of a better way to spend $100 million than trying to buy Wisconsin voters with a 13-buck tip?

Or, to put it another way, is there anybody in this state who can’t think of a better way to spend $100 million?

That is the amount Republican Gov. Scott Walker dramatically announced as a windfall giveaway to state property taxpayers just days after business executive Mary Burke entered the Democratic race to oppose Walker in next year’s election.

“Let’s go big and go bold,” Walker proclaimed, clearly holding an extremely low opinion of how cheaply property taxpayers can be impressed in Wisconsin.

Rather than be caught on the wrong side of any vote to cut property taxes even by an amount just barely into double digits for most people, many Democrats joined Republicans in speeding approval through the Legislature at a breakneck pace.

The political tactic was publicly denounced by one religious leader, Father Yeprem Kelegian, pastor of St. Mesrob Armenian Church in Racine, in a letter to a local newspaper as “patently absurd, wasteful and perhaps morally reprehensible.”

Kelegian’s suggestion: “Take the $100 million and give it to the poor, help BadgerCare, give it to the city schools, use it for law enforcement... The poor, the cities, the police need my $13 more than I do.”

The closer anyone looks at what just happened, the more offensive it becomes.

The governor added insult to already injured public schools by distributing the money as school aid and then prohibiting schools from spending it on education.

Then there’s the obvious fact that the average $13 tax cut, which will mean virtually nothing to the average Wisconsin homeowner, will turn into real money for the state’s wealthiest ones who wouldn’t be caught dead living in one of those junky, little, average homes.

That’s what Walker and Republicans love about percentage tax cuts. They are a way to extravagantly pay off their wealthiest contributors while scattering chicken feed to everyone else, all the while pretending to treat everyone equally.

Wealthy Republican supporters aren’t interested in equal treatment. They pay plenty in political contributions for preferential treatment and they expect to get it.

When you live in a multimillion-dollar McMansion that can be seen from outer space, even a property tax cut of four tenths of a percent adds up to a pretty penny.

 

Creating a $725 Million Hole

The whole process is even more brazenly corrupt when you consider where that $100 million really came from.

It’s the result of the largest cuts in state history to education and health care and the slashing of state shared revenue to every county and municipality in Wisconsin.

That included rejecting what initially would have been a fully paid federal expansion of Medicaid in Wisconsin while throwing more than 90,000 poor folks off BadgerCare and requiring them to apply on their own for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Before anyone gets the foolish idea that $100 million claimed as surplus is a positive sign of a rapidly recovering state economy, it’s not. Wisconsin under Walker continues to trail most other states in job creation.

A one-time revenue bump is the result of financial manipulations by the wealthy in Wisconsin before the end of the year to avoid higher federal taxes next year. President Obama won that tax bump—levied on individual incomes over $400,000 and couples over $450,000—in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

In fact, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau last week estimated those property tax cuts, along with other state giveaways heavily weighted toward the wealthy, would wipe out any temporary tax surplus and create a projected deficit for the 2015-17 state budget of $725 million so far.

Republicans have always objected to redistributing wealth by taxing the wealthy and creating programs to assist those who struggle most in our society.

But they have absolutely no objection to redistributing wealth in the other direction. They’re eager to slash government programs that enable those at the bottom—and increasingly, those in the middle class—to survive and redistribute the money to the wealthy. 

“It’s nearly impossible to create a tax cut that doesn’t disproportionately lower taxes for upper incomes,” said Republican state Rep. Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield, who is actually an accountant.

Well, not really. All you need to do is to put the money back into programs that serve people who really need help instead of those who don’t need help. Like restoring spending for education, health care or state shared revenue.

But there’s no reason for the shameless politicians who play us for fools to do that if we’re all overjoyed to receive a 13-buck tip while the wealthy continue unloading bags of money out of the back of the Capitol.

Talk about being a cheap date. Don’t spend it all in one place.