Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Five Billion Dollar Lie

For the past year Republicans have been tossing out numbers in the billions of tax increases they attribute to the past budget. The numbers bounce around wildly, as if they are pulled from some hat. But a frequent fave is claiming we raised taxes by “$5 billion” in 2009.

So it was satisfying to see PolitiFact Wisconsin call out a candidate who used this fake number and put this claim to its “Truth-O-Meter” journalism test. This Pulitzer Prize-winning operation came up with a resounding answer: This number is FALSE.

And the researchers over at the Journal Sentinel, which staffs Wisconsin PolitiFact, didn’t stop there. Using analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, and other sources, they broke the argument down step by step so readers get the full picture of how Democrats balanced the budget when confronted with a $6.6 billion recession time deficit.

To get to this phony number Republicans included more than $130 million in “enhanced collection measures,” which as the article noted is primarily the hiring of 30 more state Department of Revenue Employees. (Collecting unpaid taxes!) And, they note, there is no tax increase levied on residents, rather it would “lighten the load on those who are already paying up.”

Republicans also included a guesstimated $1.5 billion in property taxes, which as the Journal Sentinel notes, are levies set by local taxing bodies.

And how about the rest of that number: The $1.22 billion increase in the budget adjustment bill comes from tax fairness measures like combined reporting (making large corporations who hide profits out of state pay up) and the hospital assessment, which was supported by the Wisconsin Hospital Association and others because it leveraged $1.2 billion in additional federal revenue for Wisconsin.

And the remaining $1.92 billion bienniel budget number, well PolitiFact chalked that piece up to “taxes on cigarettes, high-income earners and capital gains investments.”

So back to what we’ve been saying all along -- we balanced the recession budget with:

  • No increase in payroll tax

  • No increase in sales tax

  • No increase in income tax for 99% of Wisconsinites (It went up only for the top 1% wage earners)

  • Even the state impact on property taxes was lower than the average of the last five years of Republican governors Thompson and McCallum.

Thanks for putting this lie to rest. Let’s see if Republicans will take note or continue to deal in falsehood and fear instead of facts.

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