By Aaron M. Rodriguez
While running for the office of governor, gubernatorial candidate Jim Doyle promised the Wisconsin electorate that he would not raise their taxes. Thus, Doyle appeared to be fiscally responsible and attractively conservative, which served him well as it contributed to his gubernatorial victory. Shortly after in his State of the State Address, Doyle reinforced his campaign promise in a speech fit for a dramatic Hollywood Film. Doyle asserted,
“Going forward, my mind will be open to every solution, except one. We should not, we must not, and I will not, raise taxes.”
That was 5 years ago, and now the Wisconsin citizenry has experienced a covey of tax hikes that include items like property taxes, sales taxes, real estate taxes, and cigarette taxes. In fact, the 2007-09 budget, signed into law by Jim Doyle, increased taxes and fees by $763 million. So how does an official justify tax increases after mulishly committing himself to a global tax freeze? I’m not exactly sure.
One of the most frightening propositions for Wisconsinites is Doyle's 2009-11 Budget Proposal that offers a multiplicity of tax increases to fill the chasm in the current state budget. A few examples should suffice to demonstrate the point.
Jim Doyle knows it will be difficult to justify increasing the gasoline tax after his pubic assurance that he wouldn't, so he tells the Wisconsin State Journal that Republicans are the ones really to blame for contributing to an “unsustainable” transportation infrastructure. Essentially, Doyle has begun to provide a liberal narrative not uncommon during election campaigns that the opposing party is always at fault for one's own actions.
One tax hike certainly worthy of a special mention is the hospital tax. In January of this year, Jim Doyle proposed a hospital tax estimated to generate $205 million in the first year of its inception. Although this mitigates the state budget somewhat, it is a serious problem for hospitals. Medical facilities that provide emergency care already incur substantial losses because their emergency departments cannot refuse patients that are uninsured or delinquent in their payments. Unpaid medical bills are compulsorily ingested by hospitals and clinics without reimbursement. As a private sector business, hospitals must find ways to recoup their losses, which include increasing service charges to insurance companies. When insurance companies refuse to take the bait, hospitals are proverbially up a soiled creek without a paddle.
As unattractive as his tax policies are, Jim Doyle also has a problem with unconstrained spending. During his 2006 reelection campaign, Doyle’s budgetary problems began to surface. In order to balance the state budget, Doyle raided the Transportation Fund for 1.1 billion and pillaged the Patient’s Compensation Fund for $175 million. The Transportation Fund is a segregated repository financed by gasoline taxes for highway construction, road maintenance, and traffic safety. The Patient’s Compensation Fund, however, is a private reserve paid by physicians for the purposes of malpractice insurance. It technically does not belong to the state, but when you’re a tax and spend governor, you have to put your hands into as many pots as you can. As an aside, even the state legislature recognized Doyle’s spending addiction, thus infusing a special provision in the biennial budget bill that would prohibit a governor from tapping the Transportation Fund, but Doyle vetoed and repealed that section of the bill with a partial veto. Although the state legislature was unable to restrain Doyle, we believe there is a workable solution, and his name is Scott Walker.
On Tuesday, April 28th, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is expected to announce his gubernatorial candidacy. In these times of economic duress, Walker’s record is refreshingly attractive and marketable. Since 2002, Walker has maintained a balanced budget without raising taxes in Milwaukee. This reputation stands in stark contrast to Doyle’s $2.1 billion of raised tax revenue and a current budget deficit of $6 billion. Budget deficits don’t reach the neighborhood of $6 billion without broad spectrum government spending. Instead of using his “partial veto” power for fiscal restraint, Jim Doyle used it to fracture the state budget. Through fiscally irresponsible spending, Doyle put himself in an untenable position that resulted in him breaking his own promises about not raising our taxes.
In contrast, Scott Walker has used his veto powers to chop spending and keep the Milwaukee County Board accountable to the taxpayer. Right now, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is at a 27 year high of 9.4% and the state deficit is the 4th highest in the nation. Could one imagine a better time for change? The time for Jim Doyle to resign has finally come.