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.
One of Wisconsin’s great traditions, the annual deer hunt season that opens this Saturday is critical this year because a huge reduction in the deer herd is needed. Wisconsin has too many deer, but thinning the herd will be easier said than done.
Sadly, the number of hunters is on the decline. And the deer hunt starts later this year meaning the deer have finished mating and are less active, a prospect hunters would rather not think about. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has also announced there are herd control rules that hunters don’t like.
Here are more details from the Associated Press.
The economic impact of this yearly rite of passage is an incredible $1.5 billion according to the DNR. The state of Wisconsin owes every hunter a huge thank you!
I am thrillled that my friend and Assemblyman, state Representative Mark Gundrum has arrived tonight at Mitchell International on a Midwest Airlines flight, having completed his tour of duty in Iraq and will now be able to spend the holidays with his wonderful family. Welcome home, Mark, and God bless you for your service to America!
Here are my previous blogs on Mark's deployment to Iraq:
January 2, 2008
March 28, 2008
July 2, 2008
Governor Doyle + Democrat controlled State Senate + Democrat controlled Assembly – QEO = big property tax increases
Now that Democrats control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state Legislature, it is a pretty safe bet that there will be a serious effort to repeal the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2009. In the past, Governor Doyle has said the QEO (opposed by the state teacher’s union that strongly backs Governor Doyle) “isn’t working.” The governor needs a history lesson.
The QEO was instituted by the Legislature in 1993 after angry taxpayers statewide demanded action be taken to stop the tidal wave of huge property tax increases. Since its inception, the QEO has helped keep property taxes from being even higher than they already are.
Under the QEO, the compensation package for teachers including salaries and benefits is to be limited to a 3.8 percent increase. Prior to the implementation of the QEO, settlement packages with teachers were much larger, forcing a tremendous burden on taxpayers.
According to data from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) that used figures from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the average total teacher salary and benefit package increase in the years before the QEO was 8 percent during 1984-85, 8.4 percent during 1985-86, 7.7 percent during 1986-87, 7.4 percent during 1987-88, 7.1 percent during 1988-89, 7.3 percent during 1989-90, 7.4 percent during 1990-91 and 6.9 percent during both 1991-92 and 1992-93.
Enough was enough. Taxpayers protested. The Legislature heard and listened, and the QEO was adopted.
In reality, most school districts do not stay within the QEO, agreeing to settlements that surpass the 3.8 percent limit. The WASB reports that the average total package of salaries and benefits was 4.29 percent during 2006-07, 4.25 percent during 2005-06, and 4.31 percent during 2004-05. The percentages are higher than the rate of inflation, and more than likely are greater than increases provided in the private sector.
Watch for state Democrats from the top on down to prioritize the repeal of the QEO at a time when property taxpayers are already overburdened. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. writes, “Wisconsin Property Taxes: Among the Nation's Highest: Wisconsin is one of the 37 states that collect property taxes at both the state and local levels. As in most states, local governments collect far more. Wisconsin's localities collected $7,324,843,000 in property taxes in fiscal year 2004, which is the latest year the Census Bureau published state-by-state property tax collections. At the state level, Wisconsin collected $104,158,000 in property taxes during FY 2004, making its combined state/local property taxes $7,429,001,000. That brings its per capita collection to $1,350, which ranks 11th highest nationally.” Here is the full report
The governor and Democrats in the Legislature will be bound and determined to increase your taxes even higher, and that is exactly what will happen with elimination of the QEO.
The QEO must stay intact. Without the QEO, spending and taxes will rise substantially, more people will leave their homes, more people will leave the state, and more jobs will be lost. We cannot afford to lose the QEO.
There was some good news from last week’s elections for fiscal conservatives. Voters in Colorado, the architect of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), rejected another effort to weaken protection for taxpayers. The Colorado ballot included Amendment 59, considered by TABOR supporters to have been the most serious attack against the concept.
TABOR was approved as an amendment to the state constitution in Colorado during 1992. Government spending was capped at the previous year’s total multiplied by the rate of inflation plus annual population growth. The beauty of TABOR is that voters need to approve any hikes in tax rates or in state or local debt. Revenues that go beyond the spending caps must be returned to taxpayers through tax reductions.
TABOR was a godsend to taxpayers. Between 1997 and 2002, the state of Colorado issued tax rebates totaling more than $3.2 billion. Colorado was the envy of tax relief proponents and saw its economy take off. TABOR’s opponents have stubbornly tried numerous times to circumvent the measure by supporting tax and spending increases. Referendum C was adopted during 2005 that suspended revenue limits in Colorado for five years. Revenues that have exceeded the TABOR limits are now funding government in Colorado, not tax relief. Revenue limits return in 2010. The latest attempt to water down TABOR was Amendment 59 on the Colorado ballot November 4.
Amendment 59 would have eliminated rebates that taxpayers receive when Colorado collected more money than it is allowed, and spent the money on preschool through 12th (grade (P-12) public education. The amendment also would have eliminated a required inflationary increase for P-12 education spending and would have set aside money in a new savings account for P-12 education.
Opponents of Amendment 59 called it a permanent tax increase, arguing that a requirement to donate a tax rebate to government programs is a net tax increase.
Amendment 59, its opponents claimed, would have freed up general funds currently spent on education, allowing elected officials to spend more taxpayer money on their pet projects. They also emphasized that the amendment would gut the goal of TABOR: Shrinking the role of government in the state’s economy. The fear was that Colorado would return to the days of double-digit spending increases, making balancing the state budget more difficult. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it, Wisconsin?
Amendment 59 was rejected by 55% of Colorado voters and the consensus is that once the suspension on revenue limits is lifted during 2010, Colorado will once again enjoy economic growth.
Under the current political landscape, Wisconsin’s prospects for approving TABOR are next to impossible. I support TABOR, and voted for tough spending limits when the Legislature took up the measure during 2006.
Colorado’s defeat of Amendment 59 signals a return of TABOR to the state that successfully pioneered the idea. TABOR’s reputation and credibility will rebound, and hopefully serve as the stimulus for another proposal here in Wisconsin.