Could the two political parties in Wisconsin get all of their members on the same page when it comes to talking about tax reform? My head is still spinning from all of the mixed messages put out there on Tuesday. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch held a roundtable discussion in Green Bay yesterday--where the hot topic was doing away with the state income tax and replacing that lost revenue with a higher sales tax. At the same time, an Assembly committee was holding a hearing on a Republican bill to established two sales tax holiday weekends.
Republican supporters of the no income tax/higher sales tax idea believe that basing taxation more on consumption--rather than just income--is a more fair way to distribute the tax burden. (And as a "save more than we spend" household, I would certainly be in favor of that idea--so long as food remains exempt.) But then Senator Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac tells the committee yesterday that Wisconsin shoppers need a break from the sales tax (at least when it comes to buying school supplies and energy efficient appliances). Further complicating the message is Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald calling Gudex's bill a "gimmick".
Democrats were also speaking out of both sides of their mouths yesterday. When asked about the elimination of the income tax and increasing the sales tax, State Party Chairman Mike Tate called it "an attack on the working poor" because (as we have discussed in previous My Two Cents) the poor don't pay income tax--but they do pay sales taxes. However, if you zipped down to the Assembly committee meeting again, you would have heard the Democrats claiming the sales tax holidays would be unfair to the poor, because it would further reduce funding for programs like Medicaid and public schools--and that retailers would just "jack up the prices" during the tax holiday weekends. (Obviously they don't get the dozens of Sunday inserts or on-line pop up ads from every retailer under the sun in August promising the "LOWEST PRICES OF THE SEASON ON ALL YOUR BACK TO SCHOOL NEEDS!!)
While discussion of tax reform is good and should be an on-going subject, the parties need to get themselves in line so that today's uninformed voters can make up their minds based on what the "Republican guy" says--or what the "Democratic guy" says. Thank you.