For six years and possibly longer, the federal agency has been incorrectly double-counting some Wisconsin taxes to the tune of $215 per person in the state, artificially inflating where the state fell compared with its peers in 50 state rankings, a report by the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance has revealed. The group and state officials recently discovered the error independently and say it accentuates the state's steady improvement from a top three tax state two decades ago to somewhat more than average today.Everything is published and posted across the states, so how did these figures get messed up? It goes back to a line item that you’ll likely see on your property tax bills next month.
In 2013, the most recent year available, Wisconsin taxes should rank 15th in the nation as a share of citizens' income, compared with the rank of 11th under incorrect data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, said Dale Knapp, research director for the Taxpayers Alliance.
The Census Bureau errors came to light when the agency reported that Wisconsin's net property taxes had risen by 5% in 2013 despite tight caps placed on those levies by Walker and GOP legislators.And those types of credits have been rising in recent years, including an unfunded $406 million tax break to Tech Colleges in 2014, and an increase in the school levy credit that is part of this year’s state budget.
"Right away, I'm like, 'OK that's not right,'" Knapp said.
State tax and budget officials had come to a similar conclusion and had discovered that the Census Bureau hadn't subtracted the tax credit money paid by the state government to local governments in Wisconsin to lower their net property tax levies for home and business owners from the gross amounts set by local officials.
What doesn’t change with this new discovery is the state’s ranking in spending, which was pegged at 24th in the nation last month. It also reiterates Wisconsin’s relatively middle-of-the-road standing when it comes to total payments of taxes and fees, as we were rated at 21st per capita before this double-counting was found, and will likely decline further in those rankings after these figures are recalculated.
But what’s bizarre to me in this story is how the GOP types in the story are celebrating this like it’s a big deal and a sign of something to come. It’s not like the actual taxes being paid changed for anyone, and policies weren’t changed, it’s just a change in a ranking that won’t affect future economic results at all.
In fact, this revelation may make the WisGOPs look even worse, because it proves yet again that lowering taxes and lowering wages and other “pro-business” moves do not lead to stronger economic growth. As Wisconsin has fallen in the rankings for highest-taxed states, it has also fallen behind the country when it comes to job growth, as shown by the year-end rankings from the Quarterly Census on Wages and Employment for the 4 full years of Scott Walker's tenure in office.
1-year private sector job growth, QCEW, Wisconsin
2011 1.31% (37th)
2012 1.47% (36th)
2013 1.27% (38th)
2014 1.55% (35th)
So what Stein’s story really does it reiterate the failure of trickle-down policies to generate job growth in Wisconsin, and in fact, it shows an inverse correlation- where lower tax rates may be encouraging the hoarding of profits and refusal to hire and adequately pay labor. In addition, those lower tax revenues have led to a decline in the quality of services and the quality of life, which makes it harder to attract talent and lead to true, sustainable economic growth.
In other words, if I was a Republican, I wouldn’t talk too much about Wisconsin "improving" in the rankings when it comes to the taxes its citizens pay, because it proves just how wrong the GOP have been in their predictions that tax cuts would lead to prosperity.