When Steve Walters was reporting for the Journal Sentinel's Madison bureau, a lot of Democrats thought he just put Tommy Thompson's news releases -- or Jim Klauser's memos -- right in the newspaper, without bothering to edit them or ask anyone for an opposing viewpoint.
So it was a pleasant surprise when Walters, now a producer at Wisconsin Eye and a WisPolitics columnist, said he has a few questions for Scott Walker
about his tax cutting plans if he's elected governor.
Unfortunately, Walters is asking the wrong questions:
By employers, Scott, do you mean all Wisconsin businesses? (Scott? Sounds a little chummy, ain'a?)
Specifically, will you recommend cutting -- or even abolishing -- the
$700 million corporate income tax?
Scott, would you freeze property taxes only on homes, or also on other types
of property (manufacturing, commercial, farmland, utilities)?
Interesting questions, perhaps, but irrelevant to a large extent. Walker has already said quite clearly what he wants to do. There are four major pieces of his tax policies, which he's talked about on the campaign trail, including
in LaCrosse in November
Walker took aim at Wisconsins new combined reporting taxation law, which treats parent companies and subsidiaries as one corporation for income tax purposes.(What was known as the Las Vegas Loophole allowed companies to pretend to be headquartered elsewhere and avoid Wisconsin taxes. Walker wants to reopen the loophole.)
Walker said he would try to repeal the increase in the top income tax bracket... (the top one per cent, who make over $225,000 a year)
and new changes in capital gains deductions... (Guess who pays most capital gains taxes?
He also promises to eliminate Wisconsins tax on retirement income...
Quite a list. But the questions that begs for some reporter to ask -- and maybe even follow up when Walker blathers some generalities -- is how Walker plans to pay for those cuts.
The price tag on those four items, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, is about $2-billion. The state's already facing a $2-billion deficit, so Walker's grand schemes would double it.
So the question Steve should ask his friend Scott is, "What programs are you going to cut if you give away another $2-billion in tax cuts?" (most of which would go to corporations and the highest income earners in the state, by the way)
One easy way to raise the $2-billion would be to end shared revenue to the state's municipalities, an $1.86 billion program. that of course would result in either sky-high property tax increases or severe cuts to vital services, like shutting down police and fire stations and inadequate snow removal and road repair.
Walker actually proposed ending shared revenue to municipalities when he was in the legislature, so that is not so far-fetched. A guy named Scott McCallum wanted to end shared revenue, too, but that didn't work out so well for him.
One Wisconsin Now offered some other possibilities
for Walker to consider to save $2-billion:
--Ending health care assistance to over 100,000 families (two adults, two children) per year enrolled in the states BadgerCare programs.
--;Firing 14,000 public school teachers
--Cutting nearly all funding to the University of Wisconsin System
Let's hope that Walters's questions are just the first in a series that some enterprising reporters might ask.
Let's also hope that the reporter asks them of Walker not on paper but face-to-face, or better yet, on camera, and insists on some real answers.
We can only hope.