I am an Ultra-Conservative, Alpha-Male, True Authentic Leader, Type "C" Personality, who is very active in my community; whether it is donating time, clothes or money for Project Concern or going to Common Council meetings and voicing my opinions. As a blogger, I intend to provide a different viewpoint "The way I see it!" on various world, national and local issues with a few helpful tips & tidbits sprinkled in.
Referendum would be good if it asked a real policy question
By CHRIS KLIESMET
Citizens for Responsible Government believes it is proper to have citizens weigh in on honest questions of public policy. However, the sales tax increase referendum put forth by the County Board is disingenuous at best.
This fraud of a referendum perpetuates numerous tax deceptions, including the notion that the only solution to fiscal problems is the Cornelian dilemma of increased taxes vs. service cuts. The County Board steadfastly refuses to introduce modern quality and efficiency “win-win” measures, opting instead to kowtow to tax-consuming special interests. An example is the board’s refusal to adopt County Executive Scott Walker’s plan to use more seasonal parks employees, which would increase parks’ resources while simultaneously cutting costs.
The next deception is that our parks and transportation systems can be saved only with a dedicated fund. The County Board has the power to prioritize these functions and fund them with current revenues if truly desired. Businesses and families are forced to make tough decisions based on available revenue each day. Government’s lazy solution is to petition for a bigger paycheck.
The notion of dedicated funding is a farce. This is a convenient lie told to induce voters to pass such referendums. We have only to look to 1992 when the initial county sales tax was imposed. At that time, the promise made to voters was that it would be used only to retire capital debt.
When Gov. Jim Doyle was threatened with legal action for his raid on the privately funded, irrevocable trust known as the Patient Compensation Fund, his defense blithely noted that anything created by a legislative body can be legally changed by that body at will. So much for relying on the promises of politicians!
The most insidious of the County Board’s lies is the promise that a sales tax increase will provide property tax relief. This is perhaps the most oft-broken promise in the political playbook.
The imposition of an income tax in 1911, the introduction of a sales tax on luxury items in 1962, the subsequent extension of that sales tax to cover most other goods, two rate increases that upped the sales tax by 66%, the creation of the state lottery in 1987 and the establishment of the current Milwaukee County sales tax in 1992 are all examples of legislation that expressly promised to provide property tax relief, yet failed.
By now, even a fool should understand you cannot provide tax relief by raising taxes.
With so many revenue streams in play, it is a simple matter to shift, then raise each one at a slow but inevitable rate. Like the proverbial frog in a pot of water, taxpayers may not realize they are being boiled to death until it is too late.
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights would have ended this tax-shift shell game, but these same politicians worked to make certain that proposal never made it to referendum. It is the pinnacle of hypocrisy to cry, “Let the people decide,” but only on questions of tax increases. A political cynic might also suggest this referendum is being forced now, right after an election, in the hope that any tax increase will be forgotten in four years.
The only honest wording for this referendum is, “Do you wish to raise your taxes by $130 million?” as this is the only outcome that can be guaranteed.
The County Board continues to tarnish its already damaged reputation for ethics and honesty with yet another con game as transparent as its recent attempt to raise its own pay. It should withdraw the current referendum wording and replace it with one that tells the truth.
Citizens for Responsible Government Network (CRG)