In an attempt to meet Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) criteria that would only allow raising new transportation revenues if taxes are cut in another area of the upcoming 2017-19 state budget, Senate Republicans are looking at eliminating the state utility tax customers pay on their monthly energy bills.First of all, this is yet another WisGOP giveaway to the rich and corporate, because the biggest users of electricity are large businesses (especially power plants) and McMansions, so they'd be the ones that got the largest benefits. And by the way, the total taken in by the Public Utility tax isn't $300 million a year- it was over $360 million in Fiscal Year 2016.
In an interview that will air on Capital City Sunday on WKOW 27 this weekend, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said eliminating that would reduce the burden on state taxpayers - both residential and commercial - by about $300 million annually.
"That would be a good example of something very specific. People would understand what you're getting rid of, and it's in the ball park which would allow you to maybe raise some revenue and move some more money into transportation," said Sen. Fitzgerald.
The money collected through the utility tax currently goes into the state's general purpose revenue fund.
Which leads to a second problem that Fitzy didn't talk about. WHAT DOES HE PLAN TO DO ABOUT THE MONEY TAKEN OUT OF THE GENERAL FUND? It's not like we're flush, because despite Gov Walker's demands for a "zero-growth" budget requests for most departments, but Walker's own Department of Administration admitted we still face a projected $588 million shortfall between revenues and expenses in the 2017-19 budget. And that was before bad revenue figures from last month put Wisconsin to be on track to miss the DOA's already-lowered estimates by nearly $200 million for Fiscal Year 2017.
This means that $588 million figure is likely to grow to nearly $800 million, and now Fitz wants to add another $360 mil a year on top of that deficit, and put the General Fund another $720 million in the hole over the next 2 years, bringing the General Fund deficit over $1.5 billion? What state services and aids to local governments are getting cut to make up for that, and how much are property taxes going to go up to cover the difference? I'm betting the ones who suffer won't be part of the voucher lobby that threw over a million dollars into 2016's elections to help Fitz's GOP stay in power.
What Fitzgerald is proposing is nothing more than a pathetic trial balloon that's being thrown up by a Wisconsin GOP that is trapped between the Bubble World of DC lobbyist Grover Norquist (and not being allowed to raise taxes) and the real world of Wisconsin, where 6 years of Fitzwalkerstani foolishness has downgraded the state's services and quality of life. When the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's new revenue estimates show another shortfall later this month, and this regressive tax shift is shown to be impossible to balance, the blame needs to be mercilessly aimed at Scott Fitzgerald and the rest of the Wisconsin GOP for messing it up.