Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Anti-TABOR

I'm not the world's biggest TABOR fan, for reasons I'll discuss in subsequent posts, but I did stumble on a bill that is a likely candidate for "worst piece of legislation" for this session.

Assembly Joint Resolution 71 is a constitutional amendment introduced by State Representative Terry Musser at the behest of Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc. Here's the plain language summary of the bill, which starts out innocently enough:

This proposed constitutional amendment, proposed to the 2005 legislature on first consideration, requires that, in any fiscal year, each city, village, town, county, school district, and technical college district (local governmental unit) spend no more in fees and property taxes than it spent in the previous year, increased by the percentage increase in the consumer price index, plus the percentage increase in property values resulting from new construction within the jurisdiction or taxing authority of the local governmental unit.

Okay, fair enough. Sounds an awful lot like some of the TABOR proposals floating around out there. But put down that McGriddle - there's more:

The amendment also requires that the state spend no less on school aid and shared revenue in any fiscal year than it spent in the previous fiscal year, increased by the percentage increase in the consumer price index, plus the percentage increase in property values resulting from new construction in the state.

You may want to read that again to let it sink in. Assuming CPI and property values go up about 3% each per year, the amendment would constitutionally guarantee a state spending increase of at least 6%, and possibly much more. Even if the state wanted to, it could not increase aids to local governments by less than approximately 6%. Musser is attempting to automatically increase spending on local governments by that amount via the state constitution. This when shared revenue is hardly ever increased (it has even been decreased in the past couple of budgets) and school districts have shown that they can get by on fairly modest increases (with the caveat that much of that revenue can be made up with higher property taxes.)

AJR 71 completely removes the option of spending fewer state dollars on local governments. Additionally, it sends the state in the exact opposite direction we need to go, which is to spend fewer dollars on local government and allow local governments more options to raise their own revenue - a tax-neutral philosophy that would provide more accountability that I discussed here.

This amendment has about as much chance of passing as my constitutional amendment proposing the Outback "Bloomin' Onion" be made the official State Appetizer.

SIDE NOTE: Have you see the Outback Steakhouses' new slogan? "No Rules, Just Right."

While I appreciate this renegade brand of vigilante food service, there are just a few "rules" I would like them to abide by. They are known as the City of Madison Health Code, and it sounds like I may have to send them a copy.

Also, enough with the goofy food names - my wife can't bear to order the chicken sandwich, because she has to say "Sweet Chook o' Mine" out loud. So I just make her sit in the car while I eat my Walhalla Pasta.