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Column: Keep lowering Wisconsin taxes

It has been nearly 30 years since Wisconsin was not among the top 10 most-taxed states in the nation. Historically, Wisconsin has been a high- taxed state. Today, the average Wisconsin citizen spends about 12.3 percent of their income on state and local taxes. Wisconsin ranks 11th highest among states nationwide.

Lowering tax rankings can be a long, arduous struggle. It requires limiting spending and saying no to the many requests for more taxing and more spending, and doing it better than other states. Our recent decline out of the top 10 was aided by other states increasing taxes, which is becoming a preferred option for many in the face of diminished revenues due to the national economic downturn. Here is Wisconsin, billions in new taxes on health care, gas, take-home pay, and homeowners have been proposed. At one point, the Senate majority passed a budget bill this session that would have doubled the tax burden on Wisconsin families by 2010 and could easily have skyrocketed Wisconsin to the highest taxed citizenry in the nation. After months of battle, most of these tax increases were blocked.

Getting involved in tax and spending decisions matters, from the local level all the way to the federal level, is critical if we want to lower our tax burden. There will always be well-organized and powerful groups asking to spend more, and saying no can be the easier choice. However, overwhelming public support can change minds.

A clear example of change was over the property tax freeze debate a few years ago. At first, the idea of limits was dismissed by the governor as a gimmick that he campaigned against. Since that time, he has come to embrace diluted and weaker property tax limits.

I think Wisconsin can do better. It will require persistency and reform. The state needs to stop incentivizing more spending and instead embark on providing local governments with options to reduce the tax burden, such as public employee health care reform, mandate relief, and changing the technical college funding sources.

Should we keep, strengthen, or end limits on property tax increases? Let me know via e-mail at Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov or call me at (800) 862-1092. Visit my Web site at www.harsdorfsenate.com to take a new survey on tax and spending issues.

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