Janesville57.4°

Growing economy can ease squeeze on property taxes

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Dan Burkhalter
November 9, 2007

Is there a way to provide desperately needed funding for our public schools without raising property taxes?


We believe there is, and that is one of the key goals of The Wisconsin Way project.


By strategically improving and expanding our economy, we increase the number of businesses in the state, raise their profits and expand their payrolls. When we have more economic activity and more people earning and spending money, we increase the amount of revenue flowing through our tax system and the responsibility of funding government services is spread out among more people and businesses. We don’t raise taxes; we increase the size of the revenue pie.


As our economy improves, we generate more resources for our schools and other government services. With more resources in our schools, we can do an even better job of preparing our children for the jobs of the 21st century. This will provide our growing businesses with a larger pool of highly qualified employees, leading to even more job growth and economic vitality. It is a cycle of success that feeds off itself.


But we face a number of obstacles. Perhaps the biggest is that Wisconsin’s population is aging and the percentage of people in the work force is expected to decline, putting further pressure on the state’s tax base. How do we turn that around? Clearly, one key component is investing in education.


Wisconsin is extremely fortunate to have one of the best public education systems in the country. But our school funding system is badly broken, and we are headed in the wrong direction. School districts throughout the state are cutting programs and staff and closing schools. Children have returned to school this fall to find fewer academic choices and larger class sizes.


If we are going to jump-start our economy, we need to find a better way to provide schools with resources to meet the needs of children so we can be assured that we are turning out future workers who can help our state’s businesses thrive.


The Wisconsin Way focuses on a strategy of reaching consensus for addressing these issues. It is designed to “energize civic engagement” through a series of town-hall style forums. The ideas generated at these meetings will be analyzed and codified into a plan that will be presented to legislators.


The Wisconsin Way represents grassroots energy at its best. It is designed to pull together the experiences, perspectives and knowledge base of citizens as well as a wide variety of experts in various fields.


Please help us find solutions to these challenges. Growing businesses and supporting a vibrant economy go hand-in-hand with a strong system of government and great schools. Yes, we can “have it all,” and it starts with education because great schools benefit everyone.


Dan Burkhalter is executive director of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union. Visit www.weac.org.
A public forum of The Wisconsin Way will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Express and Janesville Conference Center, 3100 Wellington Place, Janesville.
For more information, visit www.wisconsinway.org; call 1-800-919-3012 or e-mail wisconsinway@wcgpr.com.

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