Janesville residents speak up at property tax forum
And you can squeeze only so much tax revenue out of an aging population living on fixed incomes.
That is one of the reasons Wisconsin Way, a grassroots group sponsored by various labor and municipal organizations, is hosting a series of town hall meetings across the state. The goal is to give taxpayers a chance to share concerns and opinions about property taxes and services.
The group says Wisconsin has a non-progressive tax system that will falter as workers retire and fewer young Wisconsinites get jobs in state to replace them.
That has forced taxpayers to choose between services and property tax relief, said moderator Jim Wood, president of Wisconsin Way sponsor Wood Communications.
The problem won’t get better, he said, as the state’s population is expected to grow by 18 percent between 2000 and 2030.
At the same time, the population of people older than 65 is expected to increase by 90 percent while the workforce only grows by 9 percent, Wood said.
About 70 people attended the ninth of 13 meetings at the Holiday Inn Express and Janesville Conference Center Tuesday. About a third of them spoke.
Wisconsin Way plans to collect the ideas and present them to academic experts for study. The group wants to have a “Wisconsin Way agenda” for voters to use by the 2008 fall elections.
Some speakers suggested ways to find revenue, such as increasing the homestead credit or narrowing the list of criteria for property tax exemptions.
Many said corporate property taxes must be scrutinized.
“A blanket low corporate tax rate makes no sense,” said Ted Lewis of Madison. “A certain sector is not paying its fair share.”
In order to increase revenues by boosting high-paying jobs, residents brainstormed ways to encourage young Wisconsin professionals to work in the state, such as student loan breaks or loan forgiveness.
Maren Mapp, a Janesville teacher, said the Wisconsin Covenant is a good start.
The covenant allows eighth-graders to sign a contract saying they’ll get good grades if the state promises them a place in Wisconsin public schools and technical colleges.
“Governor Doyle’s Wisconsin Covenant is a good investment,” Mapp said. “But it won’t work if it’s supported by one party or through one governor’s term.”
Prohibiting career politicians could be a way to baffle lobbyists and spread out the tax burden, said Carl Cramer of Janesville.
“Some of the biggest problems have come up by people who have been a career politician,” Cramer said. “That might need to change to keep people focused. The lobbyists are so strong, they affect people that have been there a long time.”
Many speakers used the word “fairness.” Several suggested progressive tax brackets so higher-paid workers would pay more taxes.
Les Delo of Lima Township had a different idea.
“If I were king for a day, I would create a flat tax with zero deductions.”
One grassroots group is traveling the state, hosting brainstorming sessions to keep property taxes low while supporting services.
The Wisconsin Way will host 13 “town hall” meetings across the state. The ninth took place in Janesville Tuesday night.
The group will gather residents’ ideas on how to keep young workers in the state and how to ensure fair taxes, among other things.
To learn more about Wisconsin Way, visit www.wisconsinway.org or call 1-800-919-3012.