Budget update

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The budget finally passed the conference committee on a party-line vote, with the two Republican “Fitzgeralds” voting against.

The budget would be best described as mediocre. The taxes and fees that will be raised to close the budget shortfall are generally progressive in nature:

  • $287 million by creating a 7.75-percent tax bracket for single taxpayers with incomes of $225,000 and more, and married couples with incomes of $300,000 and more.
  • $97 million by making consumers pay a 75-cent monthly fee on phone lines.
  • Reducing the capital gains tax exemption from 60% to 30%

The Republicans opposition to the capital gains provision is puzzling – especially since they so adamantly opposed the alternative proposal to raise taxes on oil companies. What do they propose? Should we cut education more drastically? Should we restore the cuts in the Department of Justice that they derided as “pro-crime”? Where do we cut?

Of course, the simple explanation is that, like their counterparts in D.C., Wisconsin Republicans don’t have an answer. If you don’t believe me try reading Rep. Gary Bies’ rambling opposition to the “tax and spenders.” Who can blame them? They don’t matter – coming up with alternatives would be a waste of their time and political capital. Just oppose. It sounds better. And it works to a certain extent. If they talk about the teachers union and tax hikes enough some people will start to believe that they have an answer to our problems.

The budget also comprised a variety of social issues, namely immigration. The Democrats retreated on giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants but thankfully, they stood strong on giving undocumented kids in-state tuition. Another road safety provision will make Wisconsin the 49th state to require auto insurance for car owners. New Hampshire is the lone holdout. Also, cops will now be allowed to pull drivers over for not wearing seatbelts. I wonder how many cops don’t wear seatbelts themselves?

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