By Robert Kraig and Ken Taylor May 28, 2011 MJS Op-ed
The central premise of Gov. Scott Walker’s devastating budget cuts is that the state’s fiscal crisis is making him do it.
The governor claims he has no choice but to raise taxes on low-income workers while slashing education, health care, community supports for seniors and people with disabilities, mass transit and other core investments that promote economic opportunity and freedom for all Wisconsinites to live independent and fulfilling lives.
To test the governor’s assertion that these are necessary choices, we convened some of the top budget experts in the state to examine whether it is possible to balance the state budget without making crippling cuts.
Participants in the process included the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy. Our best and brightest experts found that Wisconsin’s budget could be balanced without draconian cuts to the state’s public infrastructure if the wealthiest Wisconsinites and large corporations pay their fair share.
The result is a new proposal we call the Wisconsin Values Budget, which is endorsed by 34 nonprofit organizations from across the state. This budget starts with the difficult health care and pension concessions already made by Wisconsin’s public employees, which we estimate to be worth about $1 billion.
The fundamental difference between Walker’s budget and the Wisconsin Values Budget is that we also ask the wealthy and large corporations to make a similar shared sacrifice. By raising the income tax rate for the wealthiest Wisconsinites, 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 an additional $1 billion. We raise additional revenue with improved collection from delinquent taxpayers.
The balanced approach of the Wisconsin Values Budget only cuts $640 million out of Wisconsin’s public infrastructure, much less than the profoundly damaging $2.4 billion in cuts proposed by Walker.
This demonstrates conclusively that the governor’s budget only requires devastating cuts because he refuses to ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share. In fact, the governor’s budget and his special session legislation make the deficit worse with an additional $200 million in tax giveaways to large corporations and the wealthy.
Walker’s approach is a sharp departure from Wisconsin’s 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, unlike the governor’s cuts-only approach, 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.
Robert Kraig is executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin; 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