By Sen. Mark Miller and Rep. Peter Barca, Democratic Minority Leaders
Gov. Walker, in a recent opinion column, states he wants to protect the middle class and hold the line on taxes. At first glance, we were hopeful that the Governor had changed his stance and listened to Wisconsinites who have told us over and over that they care deeply about preserving such vital local services as education, police, fire protection and health care.
Sadly, a full reading revealed that, once again, reality is far different from the rhetoric of the governor’s column.
It’s time to set the record straight: Gov. Walker’s budget, in total, raises taxes and fees. It kicks the can down the road with $2.15 billion in borrowing. And it is devastating for Wisconsin’s middle class.
The highly respected, nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis shows property taxes go up both years under the governor’s biennial budget. He also hikes fees by $110 million. In addition to general increases, property taxes will also rise by $8 million on 247,000 homeowners and renters who are already struggling to get by with his reduction of the Homestead Tax Credit.
The budget increases taxes on working families and seniors by $50 million while cutting taxes for corporations, donors and the wealthy by $200 million in the next biennium. This is far from shared sacrifice.
Another hard hit for many Wisconsin middle class families to absorb is the $107 million that will be added to UW tuition, pricing many middleclass families out of a university system they help fund.
Gov. Walker also slashes aid to local communities by $96 million and public schools by $1.7 billion, forcing local governments and school boards throughout the state to decide what services they will slash or no longer provide. He calls cutting workers take home pay a “tool” and turns a deaf ear to local officials who tell him the numbers do not add up.
What the budget – unless it is drastically amended – does is make what we believe are the wrong choices for Wisconsin residents and local businesses. It gives huge tax breaks to large corporations and creates loopholes so these corporations will not have to pay their fair share and will give them a competitive advantage over Wisconsin small businesses. It shifts funding from public schools everywhere to pay for private schools in the Milwaukee suburbs.
What Wisconsin needs is for all elected officials to work together to create a budget that is not unfairly balanced on the backs of working, middle-class families. Gov. Walker told a Washington DC committee earlier this month that “sometimes bipartisanship is not so good.” We disagree. The budget is now in the hands of legislators. Let’s work together to make sure that working Wisconsin families are truly our priority…not a target.