Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Department of Revenue Validates Income Equity Act

My record has been clear my entire career with regards to taxes. I believe in fairness.

That’s why several sessions ago I successfully passed the Sales Tax Fairness Act, which ensures your sales tax dollars actually make it back to the state, rather than the big box stores keeping your tax dollars as pure profit.

And that’s why I’ve reintroduced the Income Equity Act, the very first bill I ever introduced as a State Representative in 1999. The bill, based on federal legislation (HR 382), would limit government tax deductions to corporations with inflated CEO pay if that company doesn't also fairly compensate the little guy too.

To read a previous blog I wrote describing the Income Equity Act, click here.

I’m happy to announce the Income Equity Act (AB356/SB-250) recently got some good news from the Department of Revenue. Anytime a bill in the legislature will have a fiscal impact, relevant state agencies create a “fiscal estimate.” While these numbers are often guesswork, they are based on the best available information.

According to the Department of Revenue’s speculation based on the best available federal tax returns, the bill will generate more than $13 million each year for the state.

Ironically, the projected revenue this bill would generate would actually fully fund another of my bills, which would restore Walker’s cuts to the state’s recycling fund.

But will Republicans actually take a vote in favor of tax fairness? One can only hope!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We need real jobs legislation

We’ve all heard the Republican mantra: Businesses are the “job creators.”

Well, I’ve been a small business owner for 23 years and I’ve got to tell you, there’s nothing more insulting for a business owner, or job creator if you will, to hear than the lip service Republicans constantly give us.

Ever notice how much the Republicans salivate when they talk about us “job creators?” Yet, when they get the keys to the Capitol, all they seem to do is figure out new ways to...  Read my complete guest blog for The Progressive here.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pay gap drives 99% movement & the Wisconsin Income Equity Act

In our struggling economy, the poor and the middle class are hit disproportionally worse than the wealthy.

Don't take my word for it. Just look at several prominent studies.

The Institute for Wisconsin's Future recently released an interesting report that articulated the very wage gap that has people protesting all over the country.

The study, which tracked CEO pay from four prominent Wisconsin companies, compared their CEO Pay to that of the average Wisconsin worker. The study found that the average CEO pay amongst the four companies studied jumped from $2.3 million to $6.9 million over the past decade. Not bad. Meanwhile, the average Wisconsin worker saw their wages, adjusted for inflation, increase by just $1,000 per year. Not good.

Not only did the study show that the rich are getting richer while the corporations aren't proportionately increasing the pay of their workforce, it showed these companies spend a lot of time trying to exploit every single tax loophole the legislature has created for them. In fact, almost none of the companies paid any state income tax. I guess this goes to show you that investing in a good accountant trumps investing in the middle-class.

And nationally it isn't any better - it's even worse. According to BusinessWeek Magazine, in 1980, CEO pay equaled 42 times the average blue collar workers' salary. According to www.paywatch.org, CEO's now make 343 times more than the average worker, giving America one of the largest wage gaps in the world. I believe we must learn from our nation's mistakes. Yes, American history includes worker exploitation. However, I believe we must move beyond that dark shadow and strive to achieve the American Dream for everyone.

If we are going to create a level playing field where everyone can achieve the American Dream, we must change the way we do business in America. Recently, the Congressional Budget Office articulated the wage gap. Since 1979, according to the CBO, income for the richest one percent has risen 275 percent, compared to 18 percent for the remaining 99 percent of Americans.

That isn't right. And I didn't think this was right in 1999, when I was a freshman in the State Assembly. That's when I first introduced the Wisconsin Income Equity Act, a bill based on federal legislation. My bill, which is also a bill before Congress (HR 382), would limit government tax deductions to corporations with inflated CEO pay if that company doesn't also fairly compensate the little guy too.

Currently, corporations can deduct up to $1 million of a CEO's pay from their income tax. Meanwhile, the janitor at most of these companies pays more in taxes than the company does. My bill would cap the corporate tax deduction for CEO pay at 25-times the salary of the lowest full-time employee at the company.

If you pay the lowest paid employee $20,000, you can still deduct $500,000 of salary - 25 times the lower amount. This is fair and just, and provides a real incentive to pay workers better.

I'm not saying corporations can't pay an executive what they want. I just don't think the 99% of us should have to subsidize excessive executive pay.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Anything But...

When Governor Walker branded his second Special Session on job creation, he left out two important words; “anything but.”

Because in reality, we are embarking on our second “Special Session on Anything But Job Creation.”

While their special session started with a bang with lots of talk about jobs, so far, it has been a bust… or a bang, depending on if you consider that the GOP seems more focused on guns than job creation.

You’d think Governor Walker would have learned his lesson after his first failed special session. In fact, our unemployment rate has grown faster than the national average since Walker’s first unsuccessful special session on job creation.

Yet, here we are repeating Walker’s mistakes…again.

Since Walker announced the “Special Session on Anything But Job Creation” in September, the Wisconsin State Assembly has taken up 85 bills and 12 resolutions, yet very few of these bills will improve our economy.

Walker claimed he’d “focus like a laser” on job creation. Instead, Walker’s focus is more like a disco ball.

Instead of asking how we can help create jobs, the State Assembly is deeply embroiled in other important philosophical questions such as:

·         Should we be able to serve butter AND margarine in restaurants?

·         Is it okay to ban video cameras in the Assembly Gallery, yet allow our guests to have concealed weapons?

·         How many hours of advance notice should landlords give to their tenants if they wish to enter an apartment for a non-emergency?

·         What time of day should liquor stores be able to open?

·         Should you be able to drink wine at a county fair?

·         Should you be able to transport a gun on a boat? If so, how?

 Today, Republicans tell us the Assembly is going to take up its first bills from Walker’s special session, but I’m not holding my breath that they will actually help the economy or create jobs. I’ve seen this movie and I know how it ends.