Monday, January 23, 2006

Taxation Without Equal Representation?

The story today about taxpayer distress with the rise in property taxes charged by the technical schools has got me thinking. The main complaint of the taxpayers raising a stink about the technical colleges is that the technical college boards are appointed, not elected. Thus, the taxpayers scream, that's taxation without representation!

Over in the school voucher debate, the biggest trouble most conservatives seem to be having with the Democrat's proposal is the part about allowing MPS to recoup the 45% of the voucher program that it covers through deductions in its state aid. With MPS giving up more than $40,000,000 this year alone in the deal, and undoubtedly more in future years as the program expands, the residents of the City of Milwaukee are being made to pay for the voucher program largely through their property taxes, as Mayor Tom Barrett explains in a Journal-Sentinel article here.

But, some conservative voices have now come to argue, why shouldn't Milwaukee residents pay more for the voucher program? After all, only Milwaukee kids can participate. While this is true, it's also true that the voucher program is a state program, not a city program. In order for the voucher program to expand and the city of Milwaukee residents to see their property taxes go up (without the Democratic provision, that is), it takes the passage of a state law, not a city ordinance.

Granted, Milwaukee residents do have some representation in the state senate, the state assembly, and the governor's office. But those houses are also divided amongst the rest of the state, which wouldn't see its property taxes affected at all by the expansion of the voucher program. So, I wonder--using the same logic that has taxpayers up in arms over the technical colleges--isn't the expansion of the voucher program via state law (again, without the Democratic provision) taxation without equal representation for the residents of Milwaukee?

As "Watchdog Milwaukee" points out, a number of Milwaukee residents haven't had a great experience with the voucher program, not to mention all those residents who don't use it or don't plan to use it. I wonder how all those residents would respond to the question: "We're going to expand the voucher program, and you get to pay for 45% of it through state aid that must be made up through your property taxes. Sound good?"

I'm sure some would answer "yes," but I wonder what they'd think if just after they did, they were told that Doyle and the Democrats--who are supposedly blocking the schoolhouse door--actually proposed expanding the voucher program and eliminating the property tax burden on Milwaukee residents. Then who do you think would start to look like George Wallace?

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