The Wisconsin Taxpayer Protection Amendment is an amendent to the Wisconsin Constitution that limits the amount of taxes that the state and local governments can raise. If successful, it will protect Wisconsin residents from taxes that seem to rise endlessly. As someone who thinks Wisconsin is already grossly over-taxed, I am very supportive of this bill.
Rather than focusing on the amendment itself (I couldn’t possibly come close to Owen’s efforts), I’d like to focus on the opposition to the amendment. The Wisconsin State Journal ran a story about it this morning.
[Opponents] said the latest proposal still ties the hands of local officials and limits government spending to a formula that doesn’t match the needs of government or students, the poor, the sick and the old.
Wisconsin’s $1.7 billion in programs for doctors and drugs for the poor, uninsured children and their parents and seniors has grown by an average 7.9 percent a year since 1989, nearly three times the 2.7 percent increase in overall inflation over the same period, according to the state Department of Health and Family Services.
Economist Andrew Reschovsky of UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs said the measure would likely substantially downsize government over time. If the proposal had been put in place 20 years ago, and without passing any referendum, the $15.5 billion the state collects in annual taxes and fees today would be about 20 percent lower, he said.
“We could eliminate the UW System completely and we would still have to cut more. It’s a big number,” he said.
The fact is, Wisconsin’s taxes don’t match the needs of Wisconsin’s citizens. No one is helped by having their government help itself to a large portion of their income. These paragraphs are a classic example of FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Government big spenders are trying to frighten everyone into believing that society’s weakest members will be shoved out into the snow if taxes are raised more slowly. You can’t get any more bleeding heart than mentioning students, grandmothers, and invalids in the same paragraph. Reschovsky would like to create the fear that Wisconsin will have to kill the UW if this bill passes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is, the amendment would still allow governments to raises taxes by 4% annually. I’d hardly consider that a hardship. My own income increases at a rate of 2-5% per year. My spending increases at a slightly slower rate. (I do have to set aside money for the lean years, after all.) Wisconsin’s spending has increased by almost 8% per year. I have a hard time understanding why government should get to take my money faster than I can earn it. And that is exactly what they are doing. If I get a 3% raise and Wisconsin raises my taxes by 6%, the state is now taking 3% more of my money than they used to.
Carefully monitoring income and expenses is something that most Americans do every month. I have to carefully budget all of my income. I look at what I absolutely need to spend money on: housing, food, student loan debt, etc. Then, with the money left over, I have to make some hard decisions: should I help my brother with his college expenses? Should I take my wife out to dinner? Should I buy a new book or CD? Should I put more into my 401(k) or mortgage savings? I only have a limited slice of income to go around. As much as I would like to, I can’t dictate my own income and spend whatever I want to.
Why should the Wisconsin legislature, the Dane County Control Board, and the city of Madison be any different? Why should they be allowed to take more and more of my money every year? I’m not trying to cripple the government or destroy it. I’m merely asking (requiring) it to live by the same rules and limitations I do. Prioritize spending. Focus on the most important needs first. Make some hard decisions every once in a while instead of trying to make everyone happy.