Walker's Wretched Fiscal Record


In his June 9 Op-ed,  Capital Times editor Paul Fanlund discusses Scott Walker's "real fiscal record."

He writes:

"It's the one in which the Republcan governor always--always-- caters to those within his political base, cutting taxes for businesses and wealthy individuals while failing to provide either a coherent overarching tax strategy or a positive record in creating jobs compared to other Midwestern states. "

Fanlund chides Walker's foes for letting " the Republican governor get away with playing the fiscal hero even while he is recreating the "kick-the-can" budget he complains about, a structural deficit that will likely yield  a manufactured "fiscal crisis" after November's election. "

"In surveys, most people say they believe their taxes are too high, so tax cuts--even ones slanted to favor those atop the income pyramid at the expense of the working class--- are perilous to criticize. But a deeper look based on interviews with budget experts reveals how little Walker has really accomplished."

"Since his January 2011 inauguration, Walker has signed 15 bills into law providing tax breaks to businesses, ostensibly to help jump-start Wisconsin's economy toward the end of the great recession, part of which he claimed is his "laser" focus on creating jobs. "

Fanlund says the cuts in those 15 bills cost the state an estimated $740 million in general purpose revenue over this 4-year period, an amount that's expected to grow by at least $130 million during the 2015-17 budget alone, since some are not yet fully phased in. 

He reminds us that Wisconsin still lags behind most states, including our neighbors, in private -sector jobs created since Walker took office.

Fanlund consulted  some experts about it.  They said:

  • Several new tax breaks don't have a specific job-creation requirement. Rather, they provide a no-questions-asked benefit to business with the mere hope of job creation.

  • A number of companies receiving tax breaks are mutinational corporations (like Kraft Foods or Johnson Controls) that don't need or won't respond to a small tax break.  Slightly lower taxes are not going to have them putting more people to work in Wisconsin.

  • Some tax breaks are geared toward manufacturing activities. While manufacturing is still important to Wisconsin's economy, it is not expected to be a signifcant source of new jobs--compared to the tech, service and health care industries.

  • Some arcane tax breaks are questionable as public policy.

Fanlund also mentions that Todd Berrry,  president of the conservative -leaning Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, told the Wisconsin State Journal that recent GOP tax cuts squandered any possibility of broader tax reform. "The problem with the Walker people is they've never had a vision about tax policy," Berry said. "They just careen from one tax policy to the next."

Another factor is Walker's rejection of millions of dollars in federal funds.   "Walker's politics precluded Wisconsin from receiving $810 million in federal stimulus money for a high- speed rail line in Wisconsin. The Spanish train company Talgo is currently suing the state for breach of contract.  Wisconsin also turned down millions in federal funds that would have helped pay for those on medical assistance as well as the $38 million available for implementing a state health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act."

"So, Walker passed on several opportunities for Wisconsin to increase its relative share of federal dollars to increase employment.  Instead, he has agressively pursued a policy of throwing tax cuts against the wall and hoping one might stick to actually create a job here and there."

"The result has been much lower state revenue with wasted opportunities to propose comprehensive tax reform, and clouds on the fiscal horizon from the advance committments needed to pay for all the cuts."

"So, just as anti-government types want, the state is on a path to another structural deficit, which will enable Republicans to claim the state is "broke" again and set their sights on government programs."

Go to the Cap Times editorial  to read the rest.

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