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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Milton Officials Reshaping School Referendum Into a Taxpayer Maintenance Program?

I thought I heard it all about tax hikes when leaders of the area business chamber, Forward Janesville, said local residents must except higher tax obligations or else face an economic death spiral. But Milton officials (Pop: 5,564) now seem to be not only embracing that logic, but are taking it to the next plateau.

At least that's my first impression after reading this article, titled "We're asking for help," by the Janesville Gazette. Apparently, the Milton School District is seeing public opposition to a substantial tax hike referendum and appears to be asking the newspaper for help.

The newspaper you might recall, did a slam-bang knock-up job campaigning articles and editorials for Janesville's $71 million school expansion referendum way back in 2006. Since then, the conservative newspaper has become the go-to expert on the art of the cover-up and misinformation when local officials need to reverse-spin public opposition into their favor. So much that even Elmbrook School officials paid a visit to Janesville in 2007 to review strategy surrounding the school district's approved referendum to help them sell their own $99 million referendum. The newspaper wins awards for that stuff, so who could blame the Milton school district for turning to the Gazette for help.

So in my view, the only way to accurately read the Gazette's Sunday story about the Milton school district seeking help is to preface it with that history.

It begins with a narrative that Milton taxpayers shouldn't look at the new spending proposal as a tax hike, but instead as a favor to maintain current tax speed.

JG Excerpt:
School districts often take on new debt as old debt rolls off, he said. As old debt is retired, districts sometimes take on new debt to level the debt load and keep even the impact to taxpayers, Schigur said.

The above statement wasn't just an accidental burp by the official. The Gazette's story is built around it with pie charts showing Milton taxpayers have a lower tax burden than peer school districts.

It doesn't matter whether you're a conservative or a progressive, a Democrat or a Republican, I think THAT is the last thing taxpayers want to hear. Milton officials are saying they want to keep the debt up so the taxes locals are used to paying ...stay on cruise control. To them it's not a spike in taxes IF they never shut it off.

In a nutshell, they're also saying that the tax hike referendum is necessary, not for the product or services it will pay for, but that it will act as a maintenance program for taxpayers.

You see, their logic must be something like this: When taxes fall too low or when public debt is finally paid off, the extra money local taxpayers find in their pockets cause them to suffer from a variety of maladies including the dreaded Forward Janesville economic "death spiral." So to alleviate taxpayer pain, local governments institute spending requests to keep those "impacts" down. To sort of, cushion future shock.

In other words, you're ripe and ready for a tax hike referendum! That's your reward. See?

Keep in mind folks, this is only the beginning of their campaign and it's already entertaining.


RNR - School Referendum How-To


RichE95 said...

This is another one of those rare instances when I agree with you. Thanks for holding back from pity talk about Scott Walker bankrupting schools. It is though, time you retire the Gazette bashing. Even their editorial board has turned left. Take a victory lap. You won~!

Lou Kaye said...

Ha! First, my blogging is never about winning or losing anything. It's about building a responsible, affordable, sustainable and prosperous future. I'll be the first to say that it is messy and complicated.

However, the Gazette turning Left is quite a joke if you think promoting property tax hikes or other income-blind taxes and fees to replace income-tax funded state aid is Lefty. It never is.

What the Gazette and Forward Janesville are doing is co-opting the Left and Progressivism using guilt and shame to fund a future-forward progressive community with regressive funding mechanisms. I would prefer they emulate Walker's "conservative" budget style locally so we can watch the devastation in living color. My point is; replacing a progressively bracketed income tax with higher income-blind taxes and fees to fund government is not Lefty, but a feature of the Right.

RichE95 said...

I guess we will agree to disagree about the Gazette. From Kloppenberg to bathrooms they have turned left. If that is, as you say, simply to appease their "progressive" readers they are making a big mistake. They have clearly lost conservative readers, such as myself, who have had enough and cancelled subscriptions.

As to taxes: I agree with you abut local boards trying to increase property taxes. As a conservative, I feel that government should live within it's means. Bigger buildings don't educate children. That requires students who try, teachers who try, and most of all parents who care. I am not as opposed to you to property tax as you. The property tax does have the ability to derive revenue from non residents, part time residents, and commercial property owners who don't pay the income tax and sales tax of the rest of us. That is somewhat progressive. The issue is how much all government entities choose to spend. The most regressive tax of all is the sales tax. It hits lower income folks the hardest because it takes a higher percentage of their income. Democratic Governor John Reynolds knew that when he tried without success to keep the sales tax out of Wisconsin in the 1960's. One of my biggest disillusionments with the Democratic Party and "Progessives" has been how they have adopted the sales tax and gas tax as their own despite the regressive nature of those taxes. I remember Judy Robson claiming that senior citizens would freeze to death on highways if we didn't allow the gas tax to continue rising. Wealthy people can easily pay sales and gas taxes but they unfairly burden low income people. Why have "progressives" forgotten that?

Lou Kaye said...

I agree with you in general on the gas tax and other demand-side revenue sources. But the alternatives, mainly the income tax, have been so demonized that no one in the past 40 years except Bernie Sanders has ever mentioned raising it as part of their campaign and won election. Sanders is being ripped apart for it and called an old world socialist and communist. Plus, he hasn't won the presidency.

On the other hand, I agree libs and progs risk everything they stand for by supporting regressive tax structures to pay for progressive moving local economies. But in reality again, locals do not have an income tax to draw from. So every tax created or raised by local government is regressive by nature. This is also why since Walker won re-election in 2014, I prefer to see tea-party type conservatives holding county and municipal government and libs and progressives holding the executive branch in state gov. Let conservatives figure out how to pay for local government and amenities in the face of declining state aid and inflation. They're supposed to be the experts on budgets. My only fear is they would profitize everything for their pals through privatization. But again, I'd much prefer to see conservative majorities in local office at this point in time.

RichE95 said...

You are getting quite reasonable in your own age. I also like having an income tax in the mix. We have relatives who live in the State of Washington. Washington is considered a very liberal progressive state. Funny thing is, it is also rated as the most tax regressive state in the country. That is because of the dependence on sales tax and fees which penalize lower incomes. Federally, the endless volumes of tax law only exist to pick winners and losers by helping some avoid income tax. You may not agree, but I think everyone, particularly the lower income, would be better off with a flat tax with absolutely no deductions for anyone. The flat income tax would also replace the payroll tax. That would really benefit low income people while at the same time exploding the myth that Social Security and Medicare are insurance policies. That myth is what causes progressives to favor social security and medicare for the wealthy who don't need it. This is a very conservative point of view which unfortunately won't find much acceptance with progressives.

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