Friday, March 24, 2006

Conservative Spin on Revenue Amendment Opposition is Unconvincing

Opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment to restrict public revenue in Wisconsin has come fast and strong. Coming just as quick, but lacking the strength, is the conservative spin on this opposition.

After the first true public hearing on the amendment in Pewaukee had opponents outnumbering supporters nearly 8 to 1 earlier this month, conservative commentators claimed that it was “public employees” who were the main contributors to the imbalance.

And as more and more formal statements come out denouncing the amendment, conservatives continue to claim the thrust of the opposition is by people who maintain their livelihood through the government.

Just two days ago, for example, nearly sixty local officials from around the state signed a letter to state legislators denouncing the revenue amendment as a reckless fiscal idea for local governments in Wisconsin.

The response from conservative blogger Owen at “Boots and Sabers” was typical: “So far, the opposition to the TPA is coming from government officials and groups that feed at the government teat, which justifies the need for the TPA in the first place.”

This spin, however, hardly describes the opposition to the amendment.

In the letter from local officials, for example, over half of the signatures come from individuals who serve on municipal councils—people who took up their positions as a call to public service, not as a means for financial gain.

Indeed, most council members only get paid around $5000 per year, but often less, for what amounts to a significant time commitment. Many communities are struggling to find candidates to fill their council positions as a result.

The same could also be said for groups like the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, the United Council of UW Students, the UW-Stevens Point Student Association, and the UW Board of Regents, all of whom have released statements opposing the amendment and whose members hardly are in their positions for financial gain.

In fact, what members of municipal councils, school boards, and student associations do rely upon are votes. If there was a feeling that coming out against the revenue amendment was going to cost them support from constituents, opposition would surely be less intense.

What’s more, there are a number of non-governmental organizations that have come out in opposition to the amendment, such as the League of Women Voters, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and the Greater Wisconsin Committee. Not to mention the many newspapers from around the state who have denounced the amendment in their editorials.

Perhaps what conservative proponents of the amendment should be most concerned about is the lack of support for restricting public revenue.

The staunchest support for the amendment comes from Republican state legislators (although not all of them) and special interest groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Americans for Prosperity. The support from the WMC is particularly important, though, as it is the biggest spending lobby group in the state, and so far it has shown a willingness to dole out thousands of dollars for advocacy ads in favor of the amendment.

But in terms of grassroots support for the amendment, the list is less than impressive. Only Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc. and a group called Freedom Works stand out as non-governmental groups to release formal statements in favor of the amendment.

And Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, which is the biggest and most influential taxpayer group in the state, has exclaimed that the bonding provision in the amendment “doesn’t seem to be in keeping with basic accounting and economics.”

The debate on the revenue amendment certainly isn’t over. But if the first month is any indication, this amendment may be heading toward the same fate as its twin pretty soon.

UPDATE: This post was edited at 12:30pm to reflect that the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance does not take formal positions on legislative items.


Blogger Rich Eggleston said...


the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance doesn't take overt positions on legislation, they provide information.

So do we. See the TABOR background page at


March 24, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for your comment, Rich, and for the link.

I'll edit the post to reflect this info.

March 24, 2006  

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