Gov. Scott Walker and his supporters in the Legislature have asserted throughout the budget process that the only way to balance the state's books is to raise taxes on low-income workers and make slashing cuts to public services. It did not have to be this way.
We brought together some of the top state budget experts to examine whether it was possible to balance the state's budget without making these crippling cuts. Participants in the process included the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Institute for Wisconsin's Future, and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy. What we found is that Wisconsin's budget could be balanced without devastating cuts to the state's public infrastructure if the wealthiest Wisconsinites and large corporations made the same contribution to closing the deficit already being made by teachers, nurses, snowplow drivers, and other public employees. The result is a proposal we call the Wisconsin Values Budget, which is endorsed by 35 nonprofit organizations from across the state.
Unlike Walker's budget, the Wisconsin Values Budget asks the wealthy and large corporations to share in the sacrifice required to balance a tight state budget. By raising the income tax rate for the wealthiest Wisconsinites by 1.75 percent, reinstating the estate tax for the wealthy, and bringing the share of the state budget paid by large corporations up to the national average, we would raise an additional $1 billion, close to the same amount being contributed by public employees through health care and pension concessions.
Walker not only did not ask the wealthy and large corporations to make a similar sacrifice. He actually makes the deficit worse with an additional $300 million in tax giveaways to large corporations and the wealthy. Over the next 10 years Walker and the Legislature included $2.3 billion in tax giveaways to the wealthy and large corporations, undermining our state's future fiscal health.
The more balanced Wisconsin Values Budget protects our long-term investments in education, health care, community supports for seniors and people with disabilities, mass transit, and other core services that promote economic opportunity and freedom for all Wisconsinites to live independent and fulfilling lives. The Wisconsin Values Budget cuts $640 million, much less than the profoundly damaging $2.4 billion in cuts proposed by Walker.
The governor's budget requires devastating cuts only because he refuses to ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share. Walker's approach is a sharp departure from Wisconsin's traditions and values and it undermines the conditions needed to promote the freedom to prosper and to live independent and fulfilling lives. The Wisconsin Values Budget begins again to share the burden of creating a dynamic and prosperous economy that promotes opportunity, security for seniors and people with disabilities, and freedom for all Wisconsinites. It should become a starting point for repairing the damage that will be done by Walker's shortsighted budget.
Robert Kraig is executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Ken Taylor is the executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. The Wisconsin Values Budget and the full list or organizational sponsors are available at www.citizenactionwi.org.