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 January 15, 2021



Bear with me for a moment and read on.  I'm "nerding out" about two under-reported but really important headlines.


First: Wisconsin residents' tax burden is the lowest it has been in at least 50 years.  For nine years in a row, your state and local taxes have fallen as a share of income.  In other words, overall, people's income growth has outpaced tax growth.


This is no accident.  Governor Tony Evers proposed a budget in 2019 that would have increased taxes by more than $1 billion and created unsustainable levels of new spending.  (For instance: remember when he proposed allowing illegal immigrants to attend UW schools at in-state resident prices?)  In contrast, Republicans passed a responsible budget that funded the priorities without breaking the bank.  In fact, since 2013, we've reduced taxes by $13 billion and held the line on growing government.



Second: I know it's a little tricky to make out the fine print in this chart, but do you see how all the historically negative numbers turned slightly positive at the very end, in 2020, at the far right side?  And do you see how the negative numbers were the worst in 2010-11 (at the end of the Doyle administration) but have trended sharply back up since then?


In 2010, Wisconsin's GAAP deficit (calculated using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) was nearly $3 billion.  Assets and revenues weren't keeping up with government spending, and things were headed steeply the wrong way.  Gimmick after gimmick was being used to paper over the cracks.  Today, even by the strictest metrics, we are financially solvent.


Why should that matter to you?  It matters because of all the component pieces of the picture that make it so.  For instance: our pension system, unlike most others, is well funded and in good financial health.  We have a "rainy day fund" that is well supplied and will help weather the next storm (even after enacting all the tax cuts mentioned above).  Our disciplined budgeting has continued to yield annual budget surpluses.  All these components help fulfill government's core functions while insulating taxpayers against nasty surprises.


Soon, Governor Evers will propose his budget vision for the next two years.  He'll need to temper the expectations of his agencies; this summary of their budget wish lists (see page 5 of the summary) explains that these would cost nearly $5.8 billion in new spending.  That would surely require a massive tax hike!


The pro-growth Republican policies of the past decade have borne fruit in so many ways: lower taxes, higher employment, lower unemployment, higher wages and much, much more.  It would be a mistake to change course now.


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Vaccination Vacillations


COVID-19 vaccines are here.  But our state is third-last among the Midwest states for getting it to the front lines.


Yesterday, the Assembly Health Committee asked the Evers administration why this is the case.  The Department of Health Services apparently has no comprehensive plan after nearly a year.  Some emergency personnel have received vaccines; others have no news.  Some nursing homes are conducting clinics; some don't know who to call.  Someone decided that the entire Janesville School District workforce of 1,300 employees (not just the teachers) qualify to receive vaccines next.  Governor Evers has entrusted the thinking to a subcommittee; they evidently believe that prisoners should be in line ahead of grandmothers.  (That idea is awaiting public comment, by the way.  If you'd like to weigh in, e-mail them at dhssdmac@dhs.wisconsin.gov.)  


Lives are on the line.  Our current decision-making process is unacceptably cumbersome.  I have no idea how to advise the folks who call me, asking for any news they can gather about what timeline they might expect.  Others are understandably nervous that they may be forced by government into receiving medical treatment to which they object.


I'd like to help.  Assembly Bill 1, which I coauthored and which passed in the entire Assembly not long ago, includes several new tools to help expedite the delivery of the vaccine.  And it protects those who prefer to opt out.  There may be other ways to help too... but we need a plan!




Office of Representative Terry Katsma
State Capitol, Room 306 East
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-0656
Rep.Katsma@legis.wisconsin.gov|  |