There was much to like in Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed agenda outlined in his state of the state address last week—including plans to remove juveniles from the troubled Lincoln Hills prison, protecting the state’s SeniorCare prescription drug program, supporting school funding and guaranteeing insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Many of those ideas are politically conciliatory ones—ones that have been backed by Democrats in the past and Walker alluded to that in his speech, saying, “These are not Republican or Democrat issues. These are just Wisconsin issues.”
But there was also a major clinker in the basket and that was the governor’s call for a $100-per-child tax credit for the parents of every child living at home under the age of 18.
It’s payable in cash—just before the November elections when Gov. Walker faces an election challenge as he seeks a third term. The proposal would cost the state $122 million in revenue and in future years would be a credit in the normal tax filing procedure.
“Vote-buying” may be too harsh a word for that, although some have called it that—and no, that did not come from a Democrat, it came from a conservative radio talk show host.
“I love Scott Walker & the reforms he and the WI conservatives have done,” tweeted Jay Weber, a radio host with WISN-AM, “But this idea to give a quicky $100 per child tax credit to parents before the election reeks of the type of vote buying & game playing we’ve ripped on the Dems for doing for 30 years.”
Walker defended the child tax credit, which would be taken from a state budget surplus, tweeting: “Sending the surplus back to the hard-working taxpayers is a conservative idea. With our child tax credit, we are making tax cuts and our reforms real.”
That doesn’t really address the timing of the checks being sent out no later than Sept. 1, just as the gubernatorial race heads down the home stretch. The back-to-school bonus would no doubt be remembered by those families when they go to the polls.
But, the fact is, too, that those bonus checks will go out to roughly 671,000 households, which represent a little less than 30 percent of the households in the state, according to U.S. Census figures.
Where are the checks for the other 1.6 million households in the state? Where are the checks for the millennials without children, for the working seniors on fixed income who could use a buck or two but whose children are grown, or for the couple that simply elects not to have children? Aren’t they too “hard-working taxpayers” as Walker termed it?
Plus, there is no income limit for the fall giveback and no drug testing, either—as the governor has proposed for other state aid programs.
We fail to see the tax equity for all taxpayers in the back-to-school bonuses that just goes to families with children. We are concerned as well that the $122 million draw-down of the state’s budget surplus would reduce it by a third to $263 million, which, according to some budget analysts, is lower than what is recommended for a state budget cushion.
Or perhaps those millions could be the seed funding for a long-term solution to the state’s still unresolved highway transportation needs.
We would urge the state Legislature to seriously examine the governor’s child tax credit proposal and assess whether it really fits the needs of Wisconsin and its taxpayers—all of them.
—The Journal Times (Racine)