Friday, March 4, 2011

Walker's Budget: We Should Have Expected It

When Wisconsin Gov. Walker released his 2011-13 budget Tuesday, no one should have been surprised with its contents.

Walker is a very conservative politician, and his budget is about as conservative as it gets. The Tea Party anti-government folks must be ecstatic.

But his budget, which includes no tax increases, puts the majority of the burden on poor and middle class. And it cuts $900 million from state education, hardly a way to create a long-term investment in the Wisconsin economy.

A "regressive" tax puts a greater burden on the poor than on the rich because the tax costs more in percentage term. A "progressive" tax spreads the burden out among all tax brackets. The current U.S. tax code is, by definition at least, progressive.

Walker's budget provides more money to fight crime and more tax cuts and exemptions for business, while refusing to raise any taxes. These are the kind of conservative budget items we expected from a conservative governor.

But Walker's proposal hurts those least able to pay in other ways:
1. He cuts aid to local governments by $96 million and will not allow those governments to raise local property taxes. While Walker says the locals should save money through cutting employee health and pension benefits, the local government programs that help the poor, elderly, and children of the community are also likely be cut.

2. Walker cuts $834 million in state aid to schools. Plus he reduces the Milwaukee Public School aid further by opening up the enrollment in choice schools, which directly reduces the amount of aid MPS receives from the state.
   That is an incredibly huge amount of money that will not be going to public schools in Wisconsin over the next three years. Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker's predecessor, increased state aid to education in his 2007-2009 and 2009-2011 budgets while raising taxes slightly. Even Republican former governor Scott McCallum maintained aid for state schools in his budget.
   This is a long-term hardship on the poor, particularly in the larger cities of Milwaukee, Kenosha, Green Bay, Racine, Madison, Janesville, and others. For those poor and lower middle class kids, a quality education is the only way out of poverty.
    And all Wisconsin residents, when their children, at least those not wealthy enough to be in private schools, have class sizes over 30 should rise up to protest.

Clearly Walker is not interested in creating the 250,000 jobs he promised during his campaign.

If he is, then he is only interested in creating the kind of jobs that don't provide good living wages and benefits.

The budget repair bill and the 2011-2013 proposed budget only create a larger gap between the rich and everyone else.

And that's not what Wisconsin expects. Wisconsin residents deserve a lot more.