Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Walker's Wrong Way at Revenue

Earlier this year the Institute for Wisconsin's Future released a study showing that there are more than $900 million in taxes legally owed to the state but they have not been collected. It also estimated that there are several hundred million more dollars that have not been collected due to misfilings and nonfilings. These figures show that Scott Walker has apparently decided to totally ignore these streams of revenue that are currently and legally owed to the state. He is doing so while at the same time proclaiming that "we're broke" and using that statement as a pretext to make drastic cuts to education, local transit, Badgercare and other critical programs.

When I first started reading this IWF report I assumed that the Walker administration was just simply inept in failing to collect revenues that were already legally owed to the state. However I forgot about the fact that his default positions are equally both short-term and politically motivated. In fact he often remains stuck in that position even if it brings large long-term losses for the government and pain for his average constituent.

The IWF report goes on to provide detailed information that seems to take this issue far beyond ordinary Walker incompetence. Consider some of the following data points:

  • Staffing was increased at the Department of Revenue in 2009 and it turned into more collected (already legally owed) revenue for the state in 2010.
  • Scott Walker's administration ordered a cutback on DOR's goals for collecting such unpaid taxes. In fact the Walker goal was 10% less than what was actually collected in 2010.
  • Under the current (Walker) state budget DOR lost some 52 staffers and a full 80 positions remain vacant.
  • In January Walker's administration announced additional budget cutbacks (known technically as "lapses") that will further deplete DOR resources.
Again this comes straight from the Scott Walker School of Politically Motivated Mismanagement. Broadly cut public employee staffing for short-term (largely political) gain. But in doing so, he puts off the longer-term consequences for those actions. In this case that includes hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars in uncollected funds that are already owed to the state. The bottom line is that paying for increased staff at the DOR is a smart investment. The additional staffing would not only pay for itself but could help offset other Walker-imposed cuts.

The premise behind the IWF report makes total real-world sense in nearly every way. Unfortunately we no longer live in the real world, we sadly reside in the dysfunctional kingdom of Fitzwalkerstan.

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