By Mary Burke
It’s no secret that Wisconsin is in poor economic shape. Recent numbers indicate that the state is 38th in private sector job growth in the last two years.
Despite Governor Scott Walker’s insistence that his Tea Party reforms are working, families in Milwaukee and across the state still have trouble both finding reliable employment and making a livable wage.
Hardworking families just aren’t seeing the economic improvement that Walker touts while jet-setting across the nation. According to a Marquette University poll released in October 2013, 70 percent of Wisconsinites say their personal financial situation has stayed the same or gotten worse since Walker took office, and nearly two-thirds think the state’s economy will stay the same or get worse over the next year.
After the many failed economic promises of his first term, Scott Walker is now proposing an even more extreme idea that only promises to kill jobs and make life even harder for families here in Milwaukee and across the entire state.
In recent weeks, Walker has suggested eliminating the state income tax. While he has not explicitly stated as much, this move would drive the sales tax up to unprecedented levels.
As Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker railed against the regressive nature of raising sales taxes, stating that it was too regressive and that he wouldn’t consider a raise.
Now it seems that the governor has made a 180 degree turn on the issue in favor of grabbing headlines and national media attention.
Democratic lawmakers along with independent and nonpartisan organizations like Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance have come out against the governor’s proposal. Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has said that in order to make-up the $7.5 billion in revenues that income taxes bring in each year, the state would have to raise the sales tax by nearly 200 percent—to a rate of twelve or thirteen percent—giving Wisconsin the highest sales tax in the nation.
As a candidate for Governor, Scott Walker promised not to raise taxes, but that’s exactly what his latest economic gimmick sets out to do.
The truth is that Scott Walker’s tax rhetoric has rarely matched reality. In 2010, Walker promised to not raise taxes if elected, but raised taxes on working class families to the tune of $69.3 million while simultaneously giving a massive $83 million tax cut to his corporate pals.
His latest plan is no different: a regressive tax that digs into the pockets of working class families while protecting the growing incomes of Wisconsin’s richest individuals. Though not all households pay an income tax, 80 percent of the state would be affected by Walker’s sales tax hike, including a huge swath of Wisconsin households that can barely keep their heads above water in Walker’s economy as it is.
If the governor is serious about helping the tens of thousands of households that are struggling across the state—and creating a healthy climate for business—his regressive tax proposal makes that hard to tell.
Raising the sales tax to thirteen percent misses the forest for the trees. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that individuals with incomes less than $80,000 a year, or the bottom four-fifths of Wisconsin tax filers, will pay more if Walker gets his way with a simple transfer of income tax revenue for sales tax. While the top 1 percent will save more than $43,000 by not paying an income tax.
Walker is not the only Tea Party governor to consider this radical economic ploy to score points with his base by raising taxes on working families. Extreme right-wing Republican governors in states like Louisiana and North Carolina have also called for the elimination of their state income tax.
A closer look at those state’s proposals makes it clear that Walker’s plan requires raising taxes to unconscionable levels on goods and services, including healthcare services across the board, with poor and middle-class families feeling the pinch in their bank accounts.
Scott Walker has yet to say exactly how he would account for the significant revenue gap that eliminating the state income tax would create, but raising taxes on necessities will undoubtedly hurt middle-class families who are more likely to spend their money on food, healthcare, rent, and other basic costs. Raising taxes on these essentials is bad for business. Companies across the state will see a decline in business as households try to make their dollars stretch farther in the face of higher prices.
Families in Milwaukee can’t take any more of Walker’s economic games. Hard-working people can barely keep up with the cost of the necessities like food, healthcare, and housing as it is.
Walker wants to take money out of consumers’ pockets and decrease demand for business at local stores. The governor’s political games have far-reaching consequences for families and businesses both locally and statewide.
If Walker thinks eliminating the income tax is the ticket to national fame and an easy road to the White House he should think again. The governor has pushed Wisconsin backwards in his short time in office, and now his extreme agenda is reaching even further down into the wallets of everyday people and threatening to kill jobs in our area.
Mary Burke is a Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Governor.