The hearings are over, the debate is starting to heat up, and the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin are going to pay if Republicans in the Assembly don't hold their ground.
The budget Gov. Doyle has proposed is quite simply irresponsible. For a guy who campaigned on "balancing" the budget without raising taxes, Doyle certainly has changed his mind. Instead of a balanced budget, we face a substantial deficit. Instead of no new taxes, we face $1.75 billion in new taxes and fees in the new budget.
How does this happen?
Well, really, it's pretty simple. Gov. Doyle did and said whatever he needed to in order to get re-elected. He "balanced" the budget using a tactic similar to his massive abuse of the line-item veto and moved money and scheduled payments around until there was — on paper — a balance. He signed into law a property tax freeze that didn't actually freeze anything. Some homeowners' bills stayed the same; others — like my parents' — continued to increase. Unfortunately, the people of the state bought into his phony rhetoric and now we are stuck with the bill.
In the proposed budget, Mr. Doyle increases taxes on everything from cigarettes to gas to real estate to hospital stays. He doesn't propose an increase in income tax because that would directly affect the "middle class," and hey, the governor cares about them. Not really.
Let's think about this for a minute. Who does anyone really think is going to be paying for the new taxes? The corporations will not simply absorb the new taxes on gas revenues or hospital profits, rather they will be passed onto us in the form of higher prices at the pump and higher premiums for health care and insurance. A statement released from state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the state hospital association estimates that the new "sick tax" will cost some hospitals in her district between $4 million and $5.5 million per year.
It may not sound like much, but when health care costs continue to rise, it adds up quickly.
The cigarette tax increase is supposed to simultaneously raise money to offset health-care costs and decrease the number of people smoking by creating an economic barrier to those who may want to smoke. Such logic is at the very least confusing. If successful, there will indeed be fewer people smoking, or at least smoking less, and yet fewer people to provide the increased tax revenue. The proposed tax also completely ignores the existence of Internet cigarette sales that are not subject to taxes or the fact that many who live near the state's borders will likely go into neighboring states where cigarette prices are lower.
What about the proposed increase in real estate taxes? The new increase on the real estate transfer tax affects anyone looking to buy or sell a home. Currently that tax sits at $3 for every thousand a home or property is worth. The proposed increase would double that to $6. Now could someone, anyone, please explain to me why the governor would want to make it even harder to buy a home in the state of Wisconsin? It makes no sense, unless of course Mr. Doyle and the rest of the Democrats in the Legislature think that only the evil rich own homes.
The bottom line is that the state already pays an enormous amount of taxes and fees, yet Gov. Doyle — in what may be the most blatant bait and switch attempt in Wisconsin history — believes we should pay more. The governor isn't making the "tough choices" and "hard decisions" to set priorities like he said he would during his campaign. No, he is once again taking the easy way out. He isn't trying to save us money. He isn't even trying to be responsible. He's just hoping that, come next election, we'll all have forgotten what he tried to do.
Mike Hahn ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in history and political science.