Billions of dollars in debt, cuts in state programs, businesses laying off workers, moving out, closing down. This sums up the state of the State. At some point we have to ask ourselves how did this happen? How did we get here?
Obviously this problem didn’t just sneak up on us. Over the past six years or so, every time Governor Doyle gave a major speech about the economy or delivered his budget address he touched on the same themes: times are tough; everyone must sacrifice; we must tighten our belts. It’s almost as if he thought by shinning a light on the situation, then Wisconsinites, and more importantly, voters would not hold him accountable for our problems.
If we credit the Governor for sounding the alarm, must we not then ask what has he done to put out the fire? If you looked back at the budget he and the Democrats proposed two years ago, you would discover that while the alarms had sounded, the budget contained $1.78 billion in tax and fee increases in addition to a $1.2 billion property tax increase. I wouldn’t call that belt tightening. Nor do I believe that this year’s budget is any different.
During his budget address this February, Governor Doyle mentioned the words cut, cuts, or cutting over 40 times. His budget, however, actually raises taxes by $1.7 billion and increases spending by an astounding 7.7%. These tax increases, on everything from gasoline, to hospitals, to phone bills are what are really killing our economy and preventing us from growing.
Ultimately, that’s the problem, we’re not growing.
If Wisconsin had a tax climate that encouraged growth, and invited people and businesses to relocate here, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in today. If our population increased at a steady rate, the influx of taxpayers and their tax dollars would help us survive the tough times. Governor Doyle and his tax-hiking record in office have stifled growth and created our current problems.
Despite the Governor’s claims that our lack of economic growth is a national issue, it isn’t. Let’s use the example of North Dakota. North Dakota’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased 7.3% in the first quarter of this year. Not surprisingly, North Dakota started their legislative session with a $1.2 billion surplus. Wisconsin’s GDP grew by 0.07% and our state is billions in the hole.
Each time the Governor and the Democrats raise taxes, another family or another business has to figure out how to pay for it. At a time when personal income rate is stagnant if not declining, and bottom lines are bottoming out, people are forced to decide if they can afford to stay in Wisconsin. And you can forget about people moving here to pick up the slack, it’s just not happening.
If we don’t institute policies that reverse the course we are on; if we don’t grow; we’ll never get out from under our mountains of debt. Growth in our economy and population and our ability to pay our bills are directly related. The Governor can blame Wisconsin’s problems on a national crisis, but in reality it’s a Wisconsin crisis.
The alarm sounded long ago, but the fire is still burning.