Friday, April 21, 2006

TABOR and Its Bride Give Birth!

TABOR and the Bride of TABOR are now parents!

Rep. Mark Gottlieb (R-Port Washington) has just released the details of his "simplified" constitutional amendment to restrict public revenue in Wisconsin.

The amendment does the following:
  • Limits increases in state and local revenue to 90% of a three-year rolling average of the percentage change in state personal income.
  • Requires excess state revenue to be deposited in a "budget stabilization fund" that can only be touched when annual state revenue is below the limit or in cases of property damage that exceed 0.5% of state revenue for one year.
  • Requires that revenue in the "budget stabilization fund" exceeding 4% of state revenue in any given year go towards tax relief.
  • Allows state revenue to be increased beyond the limit only through a statewide referendum.
  • Gives the state legislature the ability to define "revenue" by law, but doesn't allow revenue from taxes, licenses, or fees to be excluded.
  • Allows local governments to exceed the revenue by local referendum or "by vote of the electors at an annual meeting" if permitted by the state legislature.
A handful of quick comments on the new amendment:

One, its just as restrictive as its parents, regardless of its size. 90% of personal income growth isn't going to be all that much different from inflation plus population growth or 2/3 of new construction.

Two, there are no exclusions for municipalities whose annual revenue is less than $1 million, as was the case in the Grothman/Wood amendment.

Three, there is still no emergency fund allowed for local governments, and the Gottlieb amendment puts far more restrictions on how the state emergency fund can be used than the Grothman/Wood amendment did.

Four, like its parents, all of the control is still in the hands of the state legislature--substantive local control is nowhere to be found.

Five, there is nothing preventing the state from dramatically reducing its aid to local governments, pocketing the proceeds, and leaving the local governments no choice but to make up the loss of funds through increased property taxes.

Six, there are no protections for local governments against unfunded (or underfunded) state mandates.

Seven, this amendment is expected to go to the State Assembly next week without any public hearings or input.

And I've just been thinking about this for about ten minutes. I can imagine what others will come up with in the coming days.

The far fiscal right needs to deal with the fact that there's no responsible way to write broad fiscal policy into the state constitution. These obsessive attempts at it are starting to get ridiculous.


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