In This Issue:
1. Passing Gas
2. School Choice Under
3. CFG 1 Trail Lawyers 0
4. Profile in Courage
For the second straight budget, Governor Jim Doyle included a 2.5% tax on oil companies which he claims won't be passed on to drivers at the pump. But studies have shown that one way or another, the increased cost to oil companies will be paid by consumers.
Of course, every company passes along tax increases to consumers, making their goods more expensive. Doyle's proposal would add between five and eight cents to a gallon of gas at the same time prices are nearing $3.00 per gallon.
Representative Robin Vos, a member of the Legislative Joint Finance Committee, pointed out that if the new tax is applied on a percentage basis, the tax will increase as the price of gas goes up. The current gas tax is a flat per gallon fee. In this regard, the oil franchise fee approximates the old gas tax indexing system, where gas taxes increased automatically every year without legislative action. The legislature repealed the indexing system in 2005 after Governor Doyle repeatedly raided the transportation fund to pay for other programs, at the same time he increased debt to pay for transportation projects.
At Vos’ request the Legislative Fiscal Bureau prepared a memo detailing the cost of the new tax to consumers. At $2.50 per gallon, the gas tax is expected to increase the per gallon cost by 4.9 cents. But if gas prices reach their 2008 summer levels of $4.00 per gallon, the state will tack on 8.7 cents to every gallon of gas.
Of course, legislative liberals still claim that their budget doesn't raise taxes on people in the middle class, like those wealthy people who fill up their cars to drive their kids to school and swimming lessons.
The Assembly will have an opportunity to remove the new tax when they vote on the budget Thursday, so be sure to contact your legislators today.
School Choice Under Siege
The budget contains a number of provisions that gut Wisconsin's wildly popular Milwaukee School Choice Program. These changes have nothing to do with fixing the state deficit, and everything to do with crippling a successful program that helps low income children succeed. The regulations would make the choice program more costly by adding restrictions and requirements that have not improved Milwaukee Public Schools.
Even the national media is taking notice. From the National Review:
Milwaukee is home to America’s most vibrant school-choice program: More than 20,000 students participate, almost all of them minorities. They have made academic gains and boast higher graduation rates than their peers in public schools. They even save money for taxpayers. Inevitably, Democrats in the state capital are trying to eviscerate the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
Sometimes onerous regulations are at least well-intentioned blunders. Not these. The enemies of school choice in Madison know exactly what they’re doing. In the name of “accountability,” they attack the quality of voucher schools with deadly precision. The goal is to make them as mediocre as the public schools they routinely outperform — and to leave parents, once again, without a choice.
The Wall Street Journal has also taken up the cause:
The irony is that satisfaction and enrollment at Milwaukee public schools has steadily declined despite these very policies that choice opponents want to impose on successful private schools. A recent evaluation of the Milwaukee choice program found that its high school graduation rate was 85%, compared to 58% for students in the city's public schools. Between 1994 and 2008, the voucher program saved taxpayers more than $180 million. Yet opponents insist these schools need additional regulations to make them more like the public schools that cost more and produce inferior results.
Club for Growth 1, Trial Lawyers 0
We are pleased to report that Governor Doyle’s plan to make it easier for trial lawyers to sue you has been removed from the budget by Assembly Democrats. For weeks, Wisconsin Club for Growth has advocated against these changes that would drive up costs for families and employers and make Wisconsin a haven for frivolous lawsuits.
The Club is currently airing radio and television ads encouraging legislators to oppose a measure that could force you to pay 100% of the damages in a lawsuit even if you are barely at fault. The ads also ask legislators to reject the Governor’s plan to raise auto insurance rates by as much as $309 a year.
While we applaud Assembly Democrats for removing the liability changes from the budget, we continue to fight efforts to raise insurance rates at a time when families can least afford it.
Please contact your state legislators now! Tell them thanks for taking liability changes out of the budget, and ask them to oppose the auto insurance rate hikes.
Profile in Courage
If Wisconsin Club for Growth had a weekly award, this week's would surely go to State Representative Robin Vos, who has mounted the strongest and most intelligent opposition to the budget.
As a member of the Joint Finance Committee, Vos has tirelessly raised concerns about backroom deals struck by the committee's Democratic members. Vos took an active role in criticizing the “oil franchise fee,” a disastrous plan for Regional Transit Authorities, trial lawyer giveaways on liability and car insurance premiums, and a plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens.
Vos and his Republican colleagues didn't have the votes to actually stop any of these provisions from moving forward. But Vos has remained vigilant in calling attention to the disastrous changes put forward by the Joint Finance Committee. For that, he deserves our gratitude.