When Legislative Republicans added the largest tax cut in the state’s history to the 2021-2023 state budget, taxpayers and fiscal conservatives rightly rejoiced. By lowering the third income tax bracket rate from 6.27% down to 5.3%, Republicans are giving back an eye-popping $2.4 billion in tax relief to the hard-working Wisconsinites who so richly deserve it. This is real, substantial and permanent tax relief that will forever change the state. Not only will this tax cut keep taxpayers’ money where it should be, in their wallets, this tax cut will dramatically reduce the amount of taxpayer money available to fund state government. Let that sink in for a moment.
Letting taxpayers keep more of their money and giving government less of our money is always a good thing. Always. And we cannot emphasize enough just how big this tax cut is. It is huge. Gov. Walker, the most fiscal conservative and successful public policy Governor in our state’s history, never proposed or signed into law a tax cut of this size. Not even close. Gov. Thompson, the longest-serving Republican Governor, never dared to even discuss such a dramatic and profound change to our tax code despite his reputation as an innovator.
Some might be wondering why we are suggesting ways to improve the 2021-2023 state budget when it includes the largest tax cut in state history. Well, because no budget is perfect and there are always ways to make a budget better for taxpayers. That being said, we must acknowledge that Gov. Evers and his use of the veto pen makes any discussion about adding policy to a budget a risky proposition. As he proved in his first budget, Gov. Evers has no qualms about using the veto pen to grow the size and scope of government, something we are fundamentally opposed to and work against every single day.
While we do believe there are ways to improve the Joint Finance budget and, in a perfect world, taxpayers should not need to worry about Gov. Evers playing partisan political games, we do need to worry about the tricks Evers could play. So even though the budget should be improved, adding language that the Governor then, by way of the veto pen, can use to make the situation even worse for taxpayers or freedom in general is worrisome for us. But, even if we couldn’t bring ourselves to add an amendment to the budget for fear of what damage Evers could do with the language, we feel it is still valuable to discuss ways to make a good budget even better. So, here goes.
- Rein In Public Health Officers And Restore Basic Freedoms
During the COVID-19 crisis, public health officers found themselves in positions of unquestionable authority and it immediately went to their heads. They bullied residents, shuttered churches, and arbitrarily closed select businesses. How dare any government bureaucrat try to tell some businesses and their employees that they were non-essential. All those decisions were based on flimsy data and ultimately discredited reasons. The results included ruined businesses, shattered lives, and spiritual crises. Those public health officers proved they were incapable of ethical leadership, and betrayed the public’s trust. Every year the State of Wisconsin provides local health departments $500,000 to prevent and control communicable diseases. Democrats wanted to raise that to $5.5 million. Republican kept it flat. They should have reduced it to zero.
- Pause Stewardship Until We Decide How Much Land The Government Should Own
How much land does government need to own before enough is enough? What is the ultimate target? Judging by the consistent actions of our lawmakers, the answer is all of it. Right now, government entities own over 17% of all land in Wisconsin just for conservation. Every budget includes more funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to increase that percentage. This time around, JFC decided to spend $32 million a year for the state to gobble up more privately owned acreage. The cost of hunting and residential acreage continues to shoot up, and government has no business competing with its citizens for land at this point – not when it already owns 17% of it.
- Now Is The Time For School Choice for All – The Same Funding Follows The Child No Matter What School They Pick
JFC’s decision to increase funding to public education by $2.6 billion this budget proves schools enjoy a one-sided relationship with society. Education ground to a standstill last year, as students were locked out of the classroom. Some students still have not returned. Achievement tests and district assessments have been suspended to cover up the damage. For those students allowed to return to class, masking policies have bordered on child abuse. Meanwhile, too many schools and teachers worked fanatically to radicalize them into believing their country and those with a certain color of skin are fundamentally bad instead of working to get them back on track academically.
Parents are furious over this situation, but none of it was addressed when JFC debated the education budget. The question should have been, why do these institutions deserve any taxpayer funds at all – but the only question raised was how much more can we give them. At the very least, parents throughout the state deserve school choice for all. Funding should follow the child no matter where he or she chooses to go to school. That will enable parents to pull kids out of these destructive environments and find a school that meets their needs.
- Stop Government Employees From Banking Hundreds Of Millions Of Unused Sick Days
Two of the less publicized benefits of working for state government is the Accumulated Sick Leave Conversion Credit Program (ASLCC) and the Supplemental Health Insurance Conversion Credit Program (SHICC). State employees are allowed to bank their unused sick days throughout their career, and eventually convert them into health insurance benefits when they retire. The cost of this problem is estimated at over $200 million a year, and grows annual by an average of 6%. With state employees increasingly working from home, the need for sick days becomes questionable, and the justification for these programs vanishes. No discussion about the program or its future entered any debate while JFC wrote the budget.
- Stop Building Pork
Every government building in the state was closed to the public last year, which raised important questions about the necessity of those buildings in the first place. Rather than open that question for debate, JFC doubled down. It passed a $1.5 billion capital budget that not only expands the government’s footprint, but also brings home the pork. Milwaukee is getting $40 million for a new Museum of Nature and Culture, Old World Wisconsin is getting $14.3 million, and Rock Island State Park is getting $1.4 million for its boat house – just to name a few.
The University of Wisconsin also scored big. It’s getting $628.7 million for new buildings and renovations. With the rise of virtual learning, JFC could have demanded UW justify those expenses. With UW-Madison talking about forced vaccinations, JFC could have used the capital budget as leverage to prevent that horrifying policy. No such luck.
Did you spot a problem that needs to be fixed in the Republican budget that we missed?
Now, it is your turn to play pundit and share your infinite wisdom with the rest of the world.
Tell us in the comments section below what you would like to see changed in the budget before it reaches Governor Evers’ desk. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.