Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


TABOR helps your future

Often times in Madison, talking politics can prove a frustrating affair. Frequently people so well informed as to the national and international scene remain blissfully unaware of local issues. Somewhere between the perpetual addressing of the Patriot Act and the 107th mention of Bush, hair begins to fall out. And yet, bring up the issue of TABOR and the question is met with a quizzical look.

What is that? Some city in Iraq?

It stands for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a name frequently lambasted for sounding conspicuously patriotic. Regardless, in a country where every proposal comes packaged in euphemism, this one delivers what it says.


Students as future taxpayers of Wisconsin — or anywhere the precedent may someday take hold — need to pay attention to the concept. In many ways, TABOR could be the most important item to cross state legislature and senate tables in decades.

The proposal is rather simple: a hard cap imposed on state, county and municipal spending, set relative to the inflation rate and growth in income levels. If a particular assembly deems it necessary to exceed the cap for an emergency or any other reason, a referendum appears before voters. TABOR protects the Wisconsin taxpayer from devil-may-care spending and forces the public sector to live within its means.

With property taxes in Wisconsin continuing to balloon, the taxpayers are all but taking up arms. Actually, it’s been argued back and forth where the state’s tax burden ranking truly lies. According to actual Tax Foundation reports, before all the number crunching and the “yeah buts”, “thises” and “that’s”, Wisconsin is the sixth most heavily taxed state in the nation.

Many students choose to reject a spending cap for what it will impose on the university system — while many of those same students are charting a course out of Wisconsin altogether.

The system will survive as all things must when faced with the real world. To seek our educational interests without regards for the well being of the state and to just scurry off, leaving Wisconsinites burning in tax-hell is a reproachable notion. Students need to understand the taxpayers’ only road to purgatory lies in drastic reform.

Let’s take a trip to the state of Colorado, where baseballs travel farther and apparently so does common sense. In 1992, after years of persistence by spending reformists, TABOR received 54 percent of the vote in referendum. This amendment, the first of its kind in the United States, paid dividends for the beleaguered Colorado taxpayer.

In just one decade, the average Colorado household surrendered $16,700 less in personal income than before TABOR. Public sector growth remained level while the private sector growth rate doubled.

Yes, the initiative originally adopted in Denver took hold during more prosperous times. Certainly those numbers cannot rest upon TABOR alone. Yet, even in the ’90s, Wisconsin couldn’t approach that type of growth. Additionally, polls in Colorado show 74 percent of residents continued to support TABOR even after the economic decline of the last few years.

Also oddly enough, while similar spending freezes regularly draw ire for originating from aristocratic origins, TABOR received the highest praise from the middle class with residents at income levels above $80,000 offering the least support.

With Colorado as the model for the TABOR movement currently gaining momentum in this state, proponents logically crafted the Wisconsin proposal nearly identical to the one passed in Denver almost 14 years ago.

Recently, Wisconsin Republicans in the state house and senate announced a 100-day plan to offer some tax relief. The agenda includes a property tax freeze (see if that gets by Emperor Doyle), an elimination of state taxes on health insurance premiums and a plan to set up tax-free savings accounts for health care purposes.

While the agenda moves toward the right goals, it’s a lot like trying to skip over a canyon. At some point a long-term solution to taxpayer woes must pass the docket.

Now what does this mean for our university and all the other schools in Badgerland?

Responsibility. A responsible party would discern between purposeful and superfluous research. This columnist is as proud as anyone of those little brown markers all over campus, but when was the last time you saw someone praising a breakthrough in television and the feminist response?

They wouldn’t hand out a six-figure pay increase to a university executive just two years before retirement and allow the taxpayer to shoulder that pension until the recipient’s death. Most importantly, they wouldn’t try to claim total administration expenditures as just one-third of the actual figure (according to a recent Legislative Audit Bureau report).

At a club in any metropolitan setting, you will see that guy. That guy rolls around in BMW 545 with 14-inch chrome wheels, wearing Armani suits and gold chains — only to return to his studio apartment furnished with a futon and a Foreman grill.

That guy would proudly boast of $662 million in research funding while the elderly are taxed into poverty. That guy would fork over money to bureaucratic pimps with no regard for the future. That guy would pretend to be California.

Wisconsin, don’t be that guy.

Patrick Klemz ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.

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