The past few months on the budget conference committee have been very frustrating. Meeting after meeting, we listened to the Senate Democrats tell us how bad our no-tax-increase budget is for Wisconsin. In turn, we told them that the people of Wisconsin cannot afford $18 billion in tax increases.
Needless to say, there has been almost no progress made on the budget at the table.
Unfortunately, there has been no progress made away from the table either. To put it into perspective, the Senate Democrats are still demanding that all of their tax increases and their government-run health care package be included in a final budget. No matter our offer, their offer stays the same – more taxes.
The concept of budget compromise is clearly not in the Senate Democrat playbook. The bad news for property taxpayers is that the levy limits on local governments that were in place the last two years are now gone. In addition, school districts get to raise their spending levels by law, and if no new state dollars appear, they can raise property taxes for the entire increase. Something clearly has to be done.
With budget resolution nowhere in sight, Assembly Republicans are taking a separate piece of legislation to the floor on Tuesday to protect property taxpayers. This package includes funding for K-12, shared revenue and puts in place a local government levy limit. But that is only part of the story.
When Senate Democrats first heard of our plan, they shot down the idea. Sen. Russ Decker (D-Schofield) declared via press release, "If the Assembly really wants to make sure property taxes don’t go up, they will commit to our version of the education budget…"
So we did.
he package we put forward funds education at the level of the governor and restores all reductions in shared revenue to municipalities and counties. Additionally, we put levy limits in place for local governments and technical colleges. The local levy limits will be neither the Senate position of 4 percent nor the Assembly position of 0 percent, but rather a compromise position of 2 percent plus growth, a level the governor had signed into place two years ago. This package saves property taxpayers $600 million over no limits at all.
For this compromise on our part we ask for one simple thing – pass the bill. Protect property taxpayers. But the Senate Democrats are rejecting the passage of their bill because it is only part of the budget. Imagine that, they have a chance to pass their own budget provisions and save taxpayers $600 million and they won’t do it.
They claim that breaking apart the budget won’t work, although the state broke out the transportation budget in 1995 and passed a separate school funding appropriation in 1999. They don’t want to pass the package because it spoils their plan of stalling and using property taxes as leverage to get us to accept other tax increases.
We put forth a compromise package in the hopes of getting it passed into law and saving taxpayers $600 million. We have asked for nothing in return.
Simply pass your bill, Senators.
State Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) represents Wisconsin’s 39th Assembly District and is the majority leader of the Assembly.