In the coming weeks, Wisconsinites will be inundated with misinformation, bad math, and assorted ideological drivel from snake-oil salesmen purporting to be experts on taxes. You can expect to hear from the groups ranging from the phony "non-partisan" Tax Foundation to our own Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC).
The theme will be simple and misinformed. The public will be told that sometime in early May they are finally working for themselves, that until then, their year's income went to government. Wisconsinites will be reminded that while residents of other states will heave earned enough to pay the tax bill by April 22nd or 23rd, Badger state residents will be working until at least the first of May for the governement.
We will be told that in Wisconsin we suffer the seventh or perhaps, the fifth highest tax burden in the United States.
And the facts are:
- All of these studies are flawed, badly flawed. When it comes to total government revenues Wisconsin ranks around 23rd or 25th, depending upon which study you use. Wisconsin collects very little of its revenues in fees and these studies do not include that less progressive revenue collection. Other states may have lower tax collections than Wisconsin but their heavy reliance on fees takes a bigger bite from the taxpayer.
- Theses studies never look at results -the quality of the public service.
- These studies never examine the externalities of public service. The city of Madison operates Monona Terrace at a loss. But while the revenues do not show up in the Monona Terrace ledger, the facility brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales taxes and tens of millions of dollars that stimulate the regional economy.
- These studies overlook obvious differentiations between governments. For example, a comparison of per capita spending between Milwaukee and Madison is meaningless unless the author factors in that public transit is in the Madison municipal budget, while in Milwaukee, the county operates the transit system.