Meaty tax revenue spoiled

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This is a new one for me: a statewide slaughter fee. Meaning a tax on every beast killed in a Wisconsin slaughterhouse. It looks like it may be history now but it’s what Gov. Jim Doyle was trying to get into this year’s budget until it was rebuffed yesterday by the Joint Committee on Finance, as both Democrats and Republicans cited concerns over the potential competitive disadvantage the tax could put Wisconsin meat producers at. How pathetic.

To understand the essence of Republican scare tactics on the economy, you really ought to read this report. Two Republican representatives, Al Ott and Karl Van Roy are on the record as saying the plan would put Wisconsin producers at a “significant disadvantage.” If for no better reason than calling out these two blowhards, Wisconsinites really have to start getting better at math.

Even Lakeshore Laments, who calls out Ott and Van Roy’s nonsense, seems to miss the point when he says this provision is meant for paying down that $6.65 billion deficit. If this fee was anything bigger than practically nothing, I’d agree with you LL, but what this fee really is meant for is to generate a bit of pocket change to add a few jobs to an under-employed meat inspection agency. The estimate by the governor put the projected revenue is wait for it….. $750,000. Yes, the salary of a well-paid NCAA football coach.

From the report before the committee, Doyle proposed a tax of 14 cents on every cow, pig, and calf slaughtered in the state, as well as a 1 cent fee on every chicken.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection reports it is only operating at about 65 to 70 percent capacity and now it looks like the feds are on our backs about our meat inspections, or lack thereof. Despite state inspectors making inspections of roughly 340,000 slaughtered animals a couple years ago, the U.S. Dept. of Ag released a report in 2008 saying that Sconz inspectors weren’t fulfilling their basic duties and were not present during slaughter, as they are required to be by law, in many of the states slaughterhouses. The department is simply under-staffed and this is a logical way to raise money. As much as I detest the hysteria surrounding the Swine Flu epidemic, for real guys, this is how you prevent it.

Looking through the report makes you realize just how arcane the agriculture industry (note those are not oxymorons) in this country is. The amount of money the federal government pours into the states in the form of “reimbursements” would have anyone who works outside of the ENORMOUS agricultural department building in D.C. scratching his head. For instance, the 2008 farm bill requires that the federal government reimburse states for 60% of the costs of conducting inspections of meat production.

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