Monday, June 26, 2006

Role Reversal

"Everyone's complaining about people moving out of Milwaukee County. Duh. If you keep cutting back programs, how long do you think people are going to stay?"

- County resident Darlene Guehlstorf, commenting on Scott Walker's plan to cut aide to the paramedic program

In a time when the reverse (i.e., program costs are driving residents out) seems to be held by many as an undeniable truth, Guehlstorf's words are all that much more needed and prescient.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Everyone's complaining about people moving out of Milwaukee County. Duh. If you keep raising taxes and fees, how long do you think people are going to stay?"

June 27, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Unfortunately for that argument, the people leaving Milwaukee County aren't leaving the state -- and it's the GOP's assertion that the entire state is over-taxed.

Plus, most economists agree that taxes are not a significant factor in where people reside. Cost of living as a whole has an impact, but on that score Wisconsin ranks cheaper than all of its neighbors with the sole exception of Iowa.

On this issue, like others, GOP rhetoric doesn't match reality.

June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right, because you have dealt extensively with employemnt placement and corporate mergers and relocations.

Taxes certainly are not the only reason people leave, but when those on a fixed income can't stay in their homes because property taxes are too high, there actually is a problem.

June 27, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Right, because you have dealt extensively with employemnt placement and corporate mergers and relocations.

I didn't realize those were the only people capable of discussing the matter. I cited my sources -- my points weren't simply based on my personal opinion or feelings.

Speaking of which, any source you'd care to share for your anecdotal comment that Wisconsin taxes are a significant factor in driving fixed income people from their homes?

While we're on that topic, I do feel compelled to note that the AARP, which represents a good portion of people on fixed incomes, opposed the GOP measure to constitutionally restrict public revenue in Wisconsin, despite the unsubstantiated arguments made by proponents that taxes are driving elderly from their homes.

And just for the record, Dems do support lowering taxes -- we just don't want to do it through Draconian means like constitutional amendments. Recent Dem proposals in Wisconsin include the HOPE legislation and various comprehensive health care reform measures (see here, here, and here). These would all have a significant impact on reducing taxes in the state -- HOPE directly and health care reform indirectly (but still signifcantly).

June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok- I'll bite. How about my grandparents? Their house was paid off for years but the property taxes kept going up. They lived in Jefferson County and eventually sold the house that they had owned for 60+ years. It broke their hearts. Did they make money on the sale? Sure. But they would have preferred to stay in their home.

Geilow and Richards across the board tax is a great idea - raise taxes - brilliant. Same with the Coalition for WI HEalth. Start a new tax to fund a new program. Once again - brilliant.

The AFL idea, while severly flawed, at least startrs grasping the theory of HSA's and market forces in health care.

The HOPE plan is great for press releases, but even the Fiscal Bureau doubts it's application of the numbers. But the "evil" rich corporations are such an easy target - especially when they leave and take the jobs with them.

And as for the AARP, their opposition to TPA does not acurately account for their opposition to high property taxes.

The beauty is, I don't have to convice the general public that the high taxes are a problem, they already know it. I hope you spend more of your time trying to convince people that high taxes are cool.

June 27, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

A personal example from your family translates into a representative example for the entire state?

Property taxes are high in Wisconsin, but in terms of total taxes and fees, Wisconsin isn't very high -- especially for what we get in return. We spend most of our state budget on education and health care -- and it shows. Our public education (early childhood through college) system is among the best in the country and the health system in the state (although showing signs of cracking) is also one of the best.

Relative to personal income, general governmental revenue in Wisconsin ranks 23nd in the country while total governmental revenue ranks 37th (see here, pages 16-17). While we rely very much on property and income taxes, our sales taxes, fees, assessments, etc., are low relative to the rest of the country. If we don't generate governmental revenue through property or income taxes, we need to generate it through something else. And the Dems are more than happy to discuss reorganizing the tax code -- it's the GOP that doesn't want anything to do with that.

In terms of health care reform, reducing the number of payers in the system (which the AFL-CIO and the WI Coalition of Health proposals involve) would save taxpayer money by reducing administrative costs and increasing the purchasing power of participants.

Don't just take my word for it, though (as if you ever would). Here and here are two articles that highlight how much would be saved in both public and private industry under the Decker/Musser (AFL-CIO) plan (which I think is the best one out of the bunch). The savings are very real.

I'm not trying to convince anyone that high taxes are acceptable -- I'm trying to remind people that public services are also necessary (then again, most already know that, too). After all, this isn't simply a debate over taxes, it's a debate over public finance.

Republicans in Wisconsin seem to feel the only way to handle the debate is to write restrictive fiscal policy into the state constitution regardless of the impact on public services.

Democrats, on the other hand, are interested in balancing the need for public services with the need to control public revenue. That's why Democratic proposals are aimed at evening out the tax code and making our state programs (like health care) more efficient.

June 27, 2006  

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