Corporations, wealthy won’t pay fair shares in Wisconsin
Gov. Scott Walker and his supporters in the Legislature asserted throughout the budget process that the only way to balance the stateís books is to raise taxes on low-income workers and slash public services. According to the Institute for Wisconsinís Future, in Rock County alone, state aid to local government is cut by $28 million, which doesnít include programs administered directly by the state.
It didnít have to be this way. We brought together some of the top state budget experts to examine whether itís possible to balance the stateís budget without these crippling cuts. Participants in the process included the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Institute for Wisconsinís Future and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy.
What we found is that Wisconsinís budget could be balanced without devastating cuts to the stateís public infrastructure if the wealthiest Wisconsinites and large corporations make the same contributions to closing the deficit already being made by teachers, nurses, snowplow drivers and other public employees. The result is a proposal we call the Wisconsin Values Budget, which is endorsed by 35 nonprofit organizations across the state.
Unlike Gov. Walkerís budget, the Wisconsin Values Budget asks the wealthy and large corporations to share in the sacrifice required to balance a tight budget. By raising the income tax rate for the wealthiest Wisconsinites by 1.75 percent, reinstating the estate tax for the wealthy, and bringing the share of the state budget paid by large corporations up to the national average, we raise another $1 billion, close to the amount being contributed by public employees through health care and pension concessions.
Gov. Walker not only did not ask the wealthy and large corporations to make similar sacrifices, he actually makes the deficit worse with an additional $300 million in tax giveaways to large corporations and the wealthy. Over the next 10 years, Walker and the Legislature included $2.3 billion in tax giveaways to the wealthy and large corporations, undermining our stateís future fiscal health.
The more balanced Wisconsin Values Budget protects our long-term investments in education, health care, community supports for seniors and people with disabilities, mass transit, and other core services that promote economic opportunity and freedom for all Wisconsinites to live independent and fulfilling lives. The Wisconsin Values Budget cuts $640 million, much less than the profoundly damaging $2.4 billion in cuts proposed by Gov. Walker.
The governorís budget only requires devastating cuts because he refuses to ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay fair shares. Gov. Walkerís approach is a sharp departure from Wisconsinís traditions and values, and it undermines the conditions needed to promote the freedom to prosper and to live independent and fulfilling lives.
The Wisconsin Values Budget begins again to share the burden of creating a dynamic and prosperous economy that promotes opportunity, security for seniors and people with disabilities, and freedom for all Wisconsinites. It should become a starting point for repairing the damage that will be done by Walkerís shortsighted budget.
Robert Kraig is executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and Ken Taylor is executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. The Wisconsin Values Budget and the full list or organizational sponsors are available at www.citizenactionwi.org.