A few weeks ago, Wisconsin Representative Pedro Colon issued a brochure confirming his commitment to protect his Milwaukee constituents from service cuts and tax increases. Colon said,
"As you know, Wisconsin, like many other states across the nation faced record deficits due to the national and global economic crisis. Thus, this year's biennial budget was very difficult. However, as vice-chairman of the budget writing Joint Committee on Finance, I believe that we were able to craft a budget that met our core priorities, made significant cuts in spending and we were able to protect more than 99% of Wisconsinites from tax increases."
The theme of Colon's message was that Wisconsin Democrats have done the best they could considering the impact of a downward global economy. But this is not entirely true. Colon is right that the global and national recession has exacerbated our state budget deficit, but he doesn't say that our state was in economic decline before the recession. When politicians say the economy is to blame for our budgetary problems, a good question to ask is how other states are doing under the same conditions?
According to Pew Research, Wisconsin is among the top ten worst economic climates in the nation. Furthermore, we have one of the highest budget deficits per capita in the country. When 40 other states are faring better than we are, we cannot entirely lay blame at the feet of a national recession.
Colon also says that they crafted a budget that met core priorities and made "significant cuts" in spending. The Business Journal reported that Doyle cut state spending by $2.2 billion, which means that Colon is technically right. However, total spending on Wisconsin programs and services increased by 6.5% for a total of $5 billion. How is state spending cut by $2.2 billion when total spending increased by $5 billion? Simple. Democrats aren't factoring in the $3 billion in federal stimulus funds they are spending on education and health care programs.
Wisconsin Democrats had an opportunity to use $3 billion in stimulus funds to repair a 6 billion dollar budget deficit, but instead they used it to increase our overall spending by 6.5%. And since they increased overall spending, our state legislators had to pass a budget that required more tax increases.
This brings me to my last point. Pedro Colon said that he was able to protect 99% of Wisconsinites from tax increases. The implication is that only the wealthy are assuming the burden of our state deficit. This is not true.
The state budget that Pedro Colon voted for increased cigarette taxes by 75 cents per pack, which will cost the lower and middle classes an estimated $343,600,000. Pedro Colon also voted for a 75 cent per line tax increase on cell phones, home lines, and fax lines, which will cost the lower and middle classes an estimated $100,000,000.
Colon also voted for a 39% increase in Child Care Licensing, which will cost the lower and middle classes an estimated $980,000. Colon voted to increase the garbage tax, which means that Wisconsin now has the highest garbage tax in the nation. Colon also voted to increase the property tax ceiling from 2% to 3%. This enables your local government to increase property taxes when necessary, which of course affects the lower and middle classes. And finally, Colon voted to increase mandatory auto insurance limitations, which caused auto insurance companies to increase their insurance premiums, which affects the lower and middle classes.
I would like Pedro Colon to explain to me how the above tax and fee increases protect 99% of Wisconsinites, and why he didn't mention these increases in his brochure?