Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

The 2009-10 legislative session review: The budget


The 2009-10 general legislative session began with the legislature addressing its single most important piece of business; the 2009-11 state budget.  The result was music to the ears of Democrats and a big disappointment to Republicans. 

You may recall that during the 2003 State of the State address, Governor Doyle said, “Going forward, my mind will be open to every solution -- except one. We should not -- we must not -- and I will not -- raise taxes. Wisconsin's problem is not that we tax too little. It is that we spend too much.”

Unfortunately, it amounted to empty rhetoric.

A Democrat governor and Democrat-controlled legislature put together the current state budget in secret rather than an open, transparent process. The final results explain the state fiscal mess. 

While most Wisconsin families tightened their belts, state government went on a spending spree. The Wisconsin taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) reports the 2009-11 state budget increased spending 9.4 percent. Are you spending nearly 10 percent more these days? I don't think so.

Remember the QEO (Qualified Economic Offer)?  Taxpayers demanded and got the QEO during the early-1990’s after property taxes kept skyrocketing. The state budget eliminated the QEO. The result?  WISTAX reports, “School property tax levies for 2009-10 are up 6.0%.”

Spending was increased. Taxes were increased. The tax increases from the 2009 budget adjustment bill plus the tax increases in the 2009-11 state budget total, according to WISTAX, $3.03 billion.  Keep in mind this happened during a recession with unemployment skyrocketing to the highest levels since the Great Depression.

Out of all the tax increases in the budget, according to WISTAX, the largest is in individual income taxes totaling $529.8 million.  Increasing individual income taxes is foolish policy especially since Wisconsin’s growth in per capita income ranking is one of the lowest in the nation. 

A flood of federal stimulus dollars was merely a band-aid barely able to heal a budget process ailing from taxing and spending. The state still finds itself immersed in a structural deficit. The moment Governor Doyle signed the 2009-2011 state budget into law, it created a gigantic hole of $899 million going into 2010-11 and $1.15 billion the year after.

Our current budget deficit figures according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau: This biennium, the deficit is $10 million. The next biennium, the structural deficit is $2 billion, 329 million.

The next governor and legislature will have to grapple with extremely difficult budget decisions. Taxing and spending our way out of  the deficit are not the answers.

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