February 17, 2011In 2003, then-Gov. Jim Doyle received praise from members of the Legislature on both sides of the aisle when he pledged not to raise taxes in order to solve the state's budget deficit. His exact words — "we should not, we must not, and I will not, raise taxes" — were met with thunderous applause during his first budget address to the Legislature. Those words echoed throughout the Chamber that night, and for many months to come. Unfortunately, the rhetoric of that speech dissolved over time, as subsequent state budgets were dealt with billions in new and increased taxes.
As the new governor and Legislature prepare for the 2011-13 state budget, we know raising taxes may be an easy way out to solve a short-term fiscal problem, but that it only leads to long-term financial crisis much greater than just a budget deficit. In fact, the many tax increases enacted over the last several years have done nothing to solve Wisconsin's budget deficit, as it repeats itself budget after budget. In order to solve this problem in the public sector, the private sector must be allowed to succeed. We can not tax our way out of this mess, we must grow our way out.
While I firmly believe that is the sentiment of the day, there is no guarantee future legislatures will hold true to it. That is why Legislation was recently adopted to statutorily require a two-thirds "super-majority" vote of the Legislature in order to raise taxes. Under the bill, which governor Walker has pledged to sign, no increases to the income, sales, or business tax may be adopted by the Legislature unless the two-thirds majority standard is met, or if the legislature adopts a joint resolution seeking a recommendation from the voters to do so through a statewide referenda. In either case, raising taxes in Wisconsin will become much more difficult, as I believe it should.
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January 20, 2011Back in the 1980s, Illinois Gov. James Thompson ordered the placement of a billboard on the Illinois-Wisconsin border, which read "Would the last business to leave Wisconsin please turn out the lights?" The action and the message sparked yet another rivalry between the two states, as Wisconsin's economy struggled and businesses considered moving to more tax-friendly states, such as Illinois.
But in an ironic twist, all of that may soon change as the state of Illinois recently enacted massive tax increases, which could send business to other states, including Wisconsin.
Following the November election and before newly-elected lawmakers could take office, the Illinois legislature narrowly adopted and the governor is expected to enact into law a series of tax hikes, along with new spending and borrowing increases.
Recent Legislators at Work
A Wisconsin state of mindFebruary 10, 2011Gov. Scott Walker has now delivered his first State of the State address to the people of Wisconsin, sending a message that fundamental changes in government are underway. With a new majority party in control of both houses of the legislature and the mandate delivered by the electorate, the governor is poised to set a new tone of governance as the chief executive officer of the state. It is a new way of thinking, with the goal of creating a new state of mind for our great state.In the last month alone, the way of doing business here at the State Capitol has certainly changed. The legislature has heard the call from the governor to focus and move expeditiously on a series of bills to help businesses grow and create jobs. To date, 10 special session bills have been introduced, with half of them already adopted and signed into law, and others on the way to being enacted. The work will continue, as the priority for this legislative session for both the governor and legislature is recharging the private sector and rebranding Wisconsin’s image to attract companies and keep companies here.
E-filing saves time, moneyFebruary 03, 2011The Internet has brought research, shopping, music and news into our homes, and made it available at our fingertips 24 hours a day. People can also pay bills, watch live video of the legislature, and do their banking all using their home internet connection. In addition, tax filers can also use the Internet to file their tax returns online as a way to not only save money, but to get your refund money faster. Since 1999, Wisconsin tax filers have had the option to pay their taxes online. In response to the growing demand for this convenience, and the cost-savings it provides, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) has made filing a Wisconsin personal income tax return both easier and cheaper. The DOR expects about three million tax returns this year and more than 75 percent of those will be e-filed, making Wisconsin a national leader in e-filing.
2011 state of the districtJanuary 27, 2011On Feb. 1, Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his first “State of the State” speech, an annual occasion of reflection on where the state has been, where it is now, and where it may be headed over the next two years. The speech generally remains focused on the positive, but also touches on the challenges facing Wisconsin. The last few years have been difficult for many, and the citizens of the state expect the new governor and legislature to respond proactively.The majority of people I represent in the 11th Senate District are encouraged by the recent changes in state government and what lies in store for the new session. The voters called for a new direction in government, and we intend to deliver on their mandate to create jobs, lower taxes, reduce government inefficiencies, and pave a new road to economic recovery. Meanwhile, the communities in the 11th Senate District remain poised to help re-energize Wisconsin’s new economy. Waukesha County continues as one of our fastest growing regions and undoubtedly is a primary economic engine of the state and is home to several national and internationally-known companies. But with a slow down in the economy, Waukesha County businesses are feeling the brunt of national and global economic pressures and doing all they can to keep pace in a changing world market. An expanding population is creating local road, highway, and other infrastructure concerns as well.
Kedzie announces assignments, new staffJanuary 06, 2011Madison — “The focus of the next legislative session will be stabilizing Wisconsin’s economy and putting people back to work — I look forward to my new committee assignments to aid in that effort,” said State Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) as incoming Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced the remainder of the committee assignments for the 2011-12 session. Kedzie has already been named chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, which he believes will have an impact on job growth in the private sector. In addition to that, Kedzie has been named vice-chair of the Senate Judiciary, Commerce, Utilities, and Government Operations Committee, and member of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, and Higher Education Committee. Kedzie has served on all three committees to some capacity in previous legislative sessions. “There has been a great deal of discussion about reforming government, particularly agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and Commerce Department. We have obligation to examine any sensible initiatives to streamline those departments and realign their attention to creating jobs, rather than creating more onerous regulations,” Kedzie said.
Property tax increases send chill to homeownersDecember 23, 2010As Wisconsin enters the deep freeze of winter and temperatures drop, one thing is unaffected and on the rise: your property taxes. At the end of the year, property owners are reminded of how much they are required to pay in order to fund their local municipality, school district, and technical college. We all know taxes are necessary to fund essential and vital programs, but taxpayers are drawing a line in the sand, and many want the Legislature to restore a meaningful property tax freeze next session. The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance predicts net state property taxes, on average, will increase by about 4.9 percent in 2010, and school district taxes, on average, will increase by 3.4 percent. In Wisconsin, property owners account for nearly 4.5 percent of personal income, the highest in 14 years. As the economy remains soft, taxpayers are being pushed to their limit and are scaling back even more in order to pay their property taxes. I receive many phone calls, e-mails and letters from constituents who wish to remain in their home, but are finding it difficult to do so based on the tax burden. We must change that. Over the last few years, the Legislature adopted and the governor reluctantly approved a temporary, three year, levy limit on municipal spending. By controlling what a municipality could spend, the amount of money collected from property taxpayers was limited, and in some cases, reduced. The outgoing governor made no effort to make the levy limit permanent. In fact, in his last budget he dramatically relaxed the property tax constraint and gave local units of government more flexibility to raise tax levies. That flexibility has led to the increase of the property tax levy limit of 3.2 percent for municipalities, which is three times what they were 25 years ago — $2.37 billion versus $601 million.
Wisconsin works to protect consumersDecember 02, 2010If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many of us have received an e-mail requesting a small amount of money be sent overseas in exchange for millions of dollars in return or a phone call awarding a supposed free vacation so long as your credit card information is provided. Even though most of us would not fall for such scams, many trusting individuals do. Your personal financial information should always be guarded, and the best way to do so is by knowing the facts. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) 13,648 fraud complaints were reported in Wisconsin in 2009. That number includes the approximately 323 reports of identity theft. Telemarketing (No Call List violations), landlord/tenant, telecommunications, satellite dish and home improvement were the most frequently reported fraud complaints. Although Wisconsin consumers ages 20 to 39 are most likely to be victims of identity theft, people of any age can be a target. In fact, child identity theft increased four percent in 2009.The state of Wisconsin is often wise to the ways in which some unscrupulous businesses may abuse the public to turn a quick profit. But for Wisconsinites who may fall prey to unprofessional — and often illegal — business tactics, knowing your rights as a consumer can give you the confidence you need to take action.
Group recognizes KedzieNovember 25, 2010The National Federation of Independent Business/Wisconsin recently presented State Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) with the prestigious Guardian of Small Business Award in recognition of his work to defend free enterprise and grow Wisconsin’s small business economy.“Sen. Kedzie has been consistently on the right side of the issues that are most important to Wisconsin small businesses,” state director Bill G. Smith said. “Our members know that they can count on Neal to fight for their interests every day, and we are proud to honor his efforts with this award.”Kedzie accomplished 100 percent on NFIB’s Voting Record, which tracks the votes of every lawmaker on the issues most important to Wisconsin small businesses. The organization identified six bills during the past legislative session that had significant implications for its members. Kedzie voted in every case with the state’s small business operators.
recognizing veterans in WisconsinNovember 11, 2010Without question, the peace and prosperity we enjoy today is a direct result of veterans’ efforts to maintain and preserve our freedom. These brave men and women who have served, fought and died for our nation are the cornerstone of our free society. As we observe Veterans Day on Nov. 11, we must not forget the sacrifice they have made, in wartime and in peace, in the name of democracy. In Wisconsin, Nov. 5 to 11 is “Veterans Recognition Week,” take this opportunity to thank a service member.Over 894,879 Wisconsinites have served in the Armed Forces since statehood, many have given their lives. As members of the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, these brave individuals continue to serve and protect our country. The contributions and sacrifices of these men and women, who served during the Civil War and both World Wars all the way up to the current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been vital in maintaining the freedoms and way of life enjoyed by the people of the United States.
Throw train under the busNovember 04, 2010In this day and age, whether we like it or not, the automobile is king. There are more than 3.7 million licensed drivers in Wisconsin, each who enjoy the convenience, ease of travel, and freedom provided by their vehicle. While owning a vehicle is perhaps considered a liability due the cost associated with it, the ability to move freely and at your own will is certainly an asset. Over the last year, a great deal of attention has been paid to Wisconsin’s transportation wants and needs, at all levels of government. Most notably, the discussion — and potential construction — of a commuter rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. For years, supporters of such a rail line have spoken at great length about the benefits of a rail system, while at the same time, chided those who believe a single-line, medium speed train will never replace the automobile. This debate has culminated into an agreement between the Jim Doyle and Barack Obama administrations to build a rail line regardless of cost, and irrespective of public opinion.