Barrett & Falk Attack Wisconsin's Property Tax Cap
Wisconsin Democrats would shift power away from voters.
3:58 PM, Apr 17, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Yesterday, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue released data showing that the property tax bill for the median home in the state had decreased for the first time in over a decade. While Governor Scott Walker was heralding the news, the two leading Democrats vying to replace him in the June 5 recall election were attacking the property tax cap Walker signed into law last year:
Walker's caps did indeed prevent property taxes from going up for the first time in 12 years. But the caps are far from "absolute and draconian" as Barrett's campaign insists. In reality, Walker's property tax cap enhanced local control. Prior to passage of the 2011 budget, the school revenue cap grew by $200 to $275 per pupil per year, according to Dale Knapp, director of research at the Wisconsin Taxpayers' Alliance. "There was sort of this automatic increase that the state would set and it would go up each year," Knapp tells me. In order to balance the budget, Walker cut state aid per pupil by $500 and gave local school districts the power to make up for those cuts by requiring teachers to pay more for their benefits.
The state law no longer imposes automatic spending and tax increases, but local school districts still have the power to exceed the cap if voters decide to do so via referendum. Just two weeks ago, referenda to raise school taxes were held in 29 different Wisconsin municipalities, and 21 of the initiatives were approved by voters.
So what does democracy really look like? Voters excercising the power to approve or deny tax increases in their local communities? Or a state law that imposes automatic annual tax increases?
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