By Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison)
As Republican leaders scramble to reach backroom budget deals in an effort to strong arm their own members to support a severely flawed state budget, some of their remaining budget schemes have come to light. Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-14) recently indicated he planned to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which ensures that the wealthy and out-of-state individuals with large state tax savings pay their fair share of state income tax.
But it didn’t take long for Republicans to get push back on their outrageous tax giveaway scheme. Why more tax breaks for the rich were even on the table when Republicans are decimating our public school system show Republican legislative priorities.
Now after bad headlines, Republicans are reconsidering their original idea to eliminate the tax on the rich. But any modification to the AMT will still cost Wisconsinites millions of dollars in revenue not invested in our public schools.
At a time when Republicans are cutting the UW System by $250 million and failing to invest in our public school children, now is not the time for another tax break for the wealthy. Nearly 75% of people who pay the AMT are the top income earners of the state, with income over $200,000 annually. Republicans already gave this group a large tax cut in 2013 when they collapsed tax brackets so that a family making $30,000 annually now pays the same tax rate as a family making $325,000. Between 2013 and 2015, their tax scheme basically created a flat income tax system which has reduced our state revenues by $647 million during the biennium.
These decisions have far reaching consequences and do not simply affect the state’s fiscal health in this coming biennium. Any loss in revenue will have to be made up year to year. Given the Republicans’ track record, this loss usually comes on the backs of our public school children.
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Republicans have spent $1.9 billion in various tax giveaways between 2011 and 2014 as they decimated public education. Included in this amount is a $60 million tax cut for wealthy parents who send their children to private schools and an increasingly costly tax credit for big corporations that will soon cost the state $570 million over the biennium.
Meanwhile, parents all over the state of Wisconsin are apoplectic over the Republicans’ refusal to adequately invest in our children and our public schools. Instead, Republicans want to take millions of dollars from our public schools for unaccountable private schools while giving even more tax breaks to the super-rich.
It didn’t have to be this way. Don’t believe the Republican lie that the state is broke. They left $360 million in savings on the table by refusing to take federal Medicaid expansion monies that would have provided health care to more people for less than Wisconsin taxpayers are currently paying. The state has revenue—Republicans just don’t want to fund the people’s priorities.
Instead, Republicans want to continue their massive tax giveaways that primarily benefit the wealthy on the backs of the hard working families and children of our state, ignoring the priorities of the people. Everyone in our state should have to pay their fair share, including Republican cronies and big donors, so that the state can invest in our people and the institutions that have traditionally made our state strong.