Accepts his challenge

Letters to the Editor from the Tomahawk Leader.
Tomahawk Leader
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Joined: Tue Jul 31, 2001 1:01 am

Accepts his challenge

Postby Tomahawk Leader » Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:17 pm

A letter in the July 21, 2009, Tomahawk Leader:

“I am running for state senate because of a lack of new ideas. All Tom Tiffany talks about is fiscal responsibility,” Jim Holperin said in the Rhinelander Daily News last summer. Jim stated at least a half-dozen times during last fall’s candidate debates, “None of us wants to raise taxes.”

Fast forward to this year when Holperin threw his support behind the 2009-2011 state budget that Gov. Doyle signed into law on June 28. He stated in a recent press release, “We have balanced the state budget responsibly…leaving a modest year-end surplus.”
The above quotes serve as a good context to review Jim Holperin’s first six months in office as state senator.

Holperin’s first major decision as state senator was to vote for the budget repair bill in February which increased taxes on families and employers by over $2 billion. So much for the campaign promise to not raise taxes. Hometown employers like Harley-Davidson and Wisconsin’s paper mills are less competitive and more likely to shift jobs as a result.

The job-killing budget repair bill was just a warm-up for the main attraction, the recently passed state budget. Holperin voted for the following:

•Raising spending by $4 billion or nearly 7%.

•In-state tuition for illegal aliens. I do not think this needs any explaining, especially for those of you who have children or grandchildren trying to get into the UW System.

•Property taxes increasing by over $300 on the average home as a result of the state breaking its shared revenue promises to local communities. So much for protecting the middle class.

•Leaving a $2.2 billion deficit for the next budget. Saying this budget is balanced is a lie.

In Holperin’s recent budget press release he challenged those of us who disagree with the budget to list budget cuts or changes we support. I accept his challenge.

1. Expand school choice in Milwaukee and other large school districts in southeastern Wisconsin including Racine and Kenosha. Choice schools in Milwaukee are saving taxpayers millions of dollars by educating children at half the price of the failed Milwaukee Public School system.

2. Suspend stewardship funding for the next budget cycle. Savings–nearly $100 million. The Stewardship program has protected some wonderful places in Wisconsin. However, we must get back to the basics in Wisconsin until prosperity returns. Do we choose to have the DNR buy more land or educate children? Do we choose to have the DNR buy more land or repair roads?

3. Don’t raise the budget by nearly 7%! Are any of you getting 7% raises this year? Even with a budget increase of 2-3%, the savings would be in the billions.

4. Reform health care benefits for government employees. Democrat State Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer reformed how health insurance is delivered to Manitowoc County employees a few years ago. It was innovative and most importantly effective in reigning in health care costs AND providing top-notch insurance for county employees. The savings will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

So having accepted your challenge, Jim, what are your new ideas?

Tom Tiffany
Former Senate Candidate

Tomahawk Leader
Posts: 679
Joined: Tue Jul 31, 2001 1:01 am

Re: Accepts his challenge

Postby Tomahawk Leader » Tue Aug 04, 2009 8:09 pm

Recently, Tom Tiffany wrote to complain about the state budget which eliminated a $6.6 billion deficit, leaving the state with a $270 million surplus.

The Legislature cut $900 million, or 3.2 percent in state spending on school aid, shared revenue and prisons, while raising taxes on cigarettes, capital gains and cell phones to balance the budget.
Tiffany claims no tax increases were necessary, saying the state should “tighten its belt.” But, as usual, he offers no ideas regarding how to do this.

In Wisconsin, five programs comprise 83 percent of all state spending. They are school aid, medical assistance, courts/prisons, the University, and local aid (shared revenue).

So, “belt tightening” means cutting these five programs. You can’t get enough spending cuts to prevent tax increases any other way.
Tomahawk School District will already lose $639,000 in school aid next year. Tiffany’s “no tax increase” budget would double that loss, at least.

Medical assistance includes SeniorCare and care for the elderly in nursing homes. The budget attracts $83 million in new federal aid to pay facilities like Golden Age and Sacred Heart. Tiffany’s “no tax increase” budget would refuse those federal dollars, leading to hospital and nursing home layoffs and more cost shifting to private pay patients.

What about prisons and the courts? How would Tiffany “tighten this belt?” Layoffs or closure of Lincoln Hills? Fewer probation and parole agents?

The UW system and shared revenue? Both were cut in the budget, but Tiffany would cut more, so plan for 10% UW tuition increases, caps on UW enrollment, and less police protection or infrastructure improvements for cities like Tomahawk.

Tiffany tiptoes around these tough choices by saying he would save “$100 million” by suspending the Stewardship program which acquires land for hunting and recreation. But Stewardship is a bonding program … so you’d save only $7 million … not the higher figure.

He says he’d also “save” by sending more state money to Milwaukee private schools. How does that make sense? What about St Mary’s in Tomahawk? Where’s the state help for them?
The fact is, saving $7 million on Stewardship would not eliminate one single tax or fee increase. You’d need $2 billion more in cuts to do that.

Yes, it’s easy to criticize “taxes and spending” and Republicans have done plenty of that. However, in order to be credible, those who oppose targeted tax increases must say what else they would cut so those taxes would not be needed. So far, we’ve heard only complaints … none of the critics have stepped forward to say what additional cuts they would make.

I’ve said before there’s not a lot to like about the new state budget. It cuts state programs and services, some substantially. It also raises taxes, but not the taxes people pay most like payroll taxes, income taxes, sales taxes and gas taxes. The budget is also balanced and it protects the biggest state programs which local communities, employers and property taxpayers depend upon.

Jim Holperin
Eagle River

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