Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Penny and pound foolish


Somebody will have to let me know if it’s okay for a writer covering an event to help himself to the free doughnuts. I spent Saturday morning listening to Tom Beebe of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools describe a “crisis” in education funding in the state and suggest, purely as a band-aid measure, raising the state sales tax 20%.  Despite the doughnuts, I found the case for increasing the sales tax unpersuasive, and fortunately I’m not alone.

Even if the legislature passed the Penny for Kids, WAES would be back asking for more money for their “adequacy model” of school funding. The Penny for Kids is only considered a stop-gap measure.

When an audience member asked Beebe if there was any evidence that taxpayers would be willing to support higher taxes to fund schools. Beebe conceded that any evidence he had was anecdotal. After asking if there any Tea Partiers in the room, he said that he thought even members of the Tea Party movement would be willing to support more money for the schools but they aren’t willing to trust the legislature with the extra money.

Beebe should attend a few Tea Party rallies. While he’s correct that they would not trust the legislature with more money, they understand that Wisconsin can’t tax its way out of its current financial mess.

When it came time to discuss how such a plan could be implemented, reality intruded. Beebe said the Penny for Kids did not have one member of the legislature willing to be the author of such a bill. He said WAES thought that one member was willing, but backed out under pressure from leadership in the Democratic Party.

Blewett told the audience he will be introducing a resolution in his committee to have the school board in Milwaukee go on record as supporting such a plan, but that it would have to wait until after the district’s budget is completed.

If Beebe wants to understand why he might be finding it so hard to find legislators who would support nearly a billion dollar tax increase, it’s because the legislature just raised taxes by $5 billion and there is still a gap in the state budget. As one audience member pointed out, the state is broke, and they may have to look for a different solution.

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