Dead in Wisconsin'
Todd Berry, president of the Taxpayers Alliance,
spoke during a conference Wednesday (January 19, 2005) at the
Monona Terrace in Madison.
By Rich Eggleston
Partners for Wisconsin
A Colorado-style TABOR "has been dead for six months in Wisconsin,"
Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, told a conference
on government spending limits sponsored by the UW La Follette School
of Public Affairs.
"And if you doubt me, try to find a majority in either house of
the Legislature," Berry said.
But that doesn't mean a TABOR that doesn't perform the shenanigans
that TABOR has performed in Colorado won't receive serious debate in
Former state revenue secretary Rick Chandler, now a consultant to the
Wisconsin Realtors Association, called for "reasonable, sensible,
workable spending limits tied to personal income growth."
Chandler said such a constitutional amendment could provide for continued
quality public services at a price the public could afford.
But Iris Lav of the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities in Washington,
D.C., said Wisconsin really needs a rainy-day fund, and enacting a TABOR
to get one was "taking a sledge hammer to swat a fly."
Tom Hefty, former CEO of Cobalt Corp., the parent company of Blue Cross-Blue
Shield United of Wisconsin, said Medicaid reform is the "missing
link" in bringing Wisconsin's taxes into line with other states.
Medicaid is the biggest chunk of federal money that goes to states,
and just to get to average in federal aid to state and local government
would require an infusion of $1.4 billion a year, he said. Only half
of Wisconsin's school districts bill for Medicaid services, Hefty added.
Prof. Don Nichols, director of the La Follette School, said he wasn't
shocked by the notion that taxes in Wisconsin this year set a record.
"In a balanced, growing economy, everything should set a record
every year...including taxes," he said. "Of course they're
a record. Output is a record, taxes are a record."
He added that taxes have been relatively flat in Wisconsin —
they take relatively the same share of our income today than they did
many years ago.
"We don't have runaway government; we don't have runaway taxes,"
However, it was Berry, on the conference's agenda as a "discussant,"
who had a corner on pithy remarks to the conference at Madison's Monona
Terrace. Other samples:
- "If you mention 'toll road' in Wisconsin [toll roads are a
hot subject of discussion in Colorado], people turn five shades of
purple and orange."
- When the state went to two-thirds funding of schools, school districts
"figured out the state was running a sale on school buildings,
so they stocked up."
- "Local government doesn't hold many of the cards" in
the taxes and spending debate. "They're dependent of state fiscal
policymaking, if you can call it that."
- "This state has more paved roads per capita than all but five
states in the nation;" and
- "I have a hard time justifying sending aid to communities
with incredible tax bases."
Posted January 21, 2005