Monday, November 23, 2015

There goes that Walker talking point- property taxes going up

When Scott Walker signed the Wisconsin State Budget this July, he tried to use the document as a way to sell his record for his soon-to-start (and soon-to-fail) presidential campaign. And central to that campaign was this claim.
“With this budget, taxpayers come first,” said Governor Walker. “Property taxes will be cut for an unprecedented six years in a row, while additional money is invested in K-12 education and expanding educational choices for parents and their students.
Sure, the projected property tax cut was only going to total $3 in the next 2 years. "But hey," said the rubes, "it still beats taxes going up."

Sorry rubes, but you were snookered. Your dreams of lower property taxes for the next two years just went out the window, as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau came out last week, and said instead of a $1 decrease on the average property tax bill in Wisconsin, those bills will now go UP by an average of $16 when they get shipped out in coming weeks. Ruh roh.

So why did it happen? The LFB says it was because of a couple of items that had been lurking in the background in recent months.
Over half of the tax bill difference ($10) is attributable to equalized values. The increase in residential property value due to economic factors is used to calculate the year-to-year change in the median home value, and the difference between the growth rates for total value and the home value is an important element in determining tax bill changes. When the value of an existing property increases by a lower percentage than the percentage change in total value, the existing property will comprise a smaller share of total tax base, and the percentage of taxes apportioned to the existing property will decline. In the July 27th memorandum, total taxable value was estimated to increase at a rate that was 1.1% higher than the home value change, but the actual 2015 equalized values reflect a difference of only 0.8%. Compared to the earlier estimate, less of the 2015(16) tax levy will be shifted to other property and more of the tax levy will be borne by existing homes.

The rest of the tax bill difference ($7) is due to somewhat higher school and technical college district tax levy increases and slightly less lottery proceeds available, in comparison to the July 27 estimated amounts. Statewide levy increases of 2.1% for school districts and 2.4% for technical college districts compare to earlier estimated increases of 1.6% and 2.0%, respectively. In dollar terms, the reported increases exceed the earlier projections by $21.7 million for school districts and by $1.4 million for technical college districts. In October, the Joint Committee on Finance approved a Department of Administration estimate of lottery proceeds available for distribution as property tax credits in 2015-16. The action lowered the estimate of available funding by $1.4 million from $162.8 million under Act 55 to $161.4 million in October.
Hey, who could have predicted that? Oh wait, (points both thumbs) THIS GUY! Oh and that lottery credit is supposed to decline further next year. Double ruh roh.

The higher-than-expected increase in school levies are likely a big reason behind the absurd bill in the GOP Legislature that is intended to limit the ability of school districts to go to referendum to raise property taxes. Because one of the few tangible "positive" things the WisGOPs have been able to claim over this 5-year Reign of Error is "your taxes are lower!" Now that bullet is going away, and it's a direct result of GOP policies that cut funding for K-12 public schools, causing them to have to go to referendum just to leave the lights on and keep the buildings from falling down. And what's even worse than seeing property taxes go up is promising to the average low-info voter that they'd go down....and to have them find out otherwise. So to try to mitigate the damage from their own failed policies and a general backwards-ass mentality when it comes to taxes, many WisGOPs would rather blow up their earlier approval of "local control" and screw up public schools even further just to be able to have a campaign talking point. That's GOP "governance" for you.

What's even dumber about that referendum bill is that not only is it pissing a lot of people off as a usurping of local control, that bill won't matter for the 2016 elections anyway! Because higher property taxes will be on the bills that are coming out in a couple of weeks, and the next set of property tax bills won't come out until after those 2016 elections take place, with little chance of taxes being limited by the bill until the year after that. And the state budget is too busted for rising property taxes to be fixed in any useful fashion that doesn't involve major service cuts, or other taxes going up.

'Tis quite the quandry, is it not? But Scott Walker and WisGOP did it to themselves, and their gimmicks about lowering property taxes have now gone past merely being bad policy that leads to a low-wage, declining economy, the "lower taxes" claim isn't even true anymore. Go ahead and run on that, guys!

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