Now we’re talking. Just a few days ago I complained about Walker needing a second term agenda and he released a pretty good start to one. Some of the agenda items are pretty boilerplate, like “Provide tax relief for manufacturing and agriculture,” but some of them have some teeth. Let’s take a look at a few.
- Cut property taxes so that the levy on a typical home in 2018 is lower than it was in 2010.
- Reduce income taxes so that they are lower in 2018 than they are today
Awesome. While not promising a specific amount (lesson learned), Walker is committing to reducing two of the big three taxes. That’s a very good start and adds to the accomplishments in reducing taxes in the first term.
- Continue the freeze on UW tuition.
This is another great item and one that is already very popular. As the parent of a kid in a UW school, this is huge. Not only does it help with keeping the cost of college under some control (it’s still too high), but the stability allows for better financial planning for the duration. Many families had to include a normal 5%-10% yearly tuition increase when planning how to pay for a degree. The tuition freeze helps make it easier to plan for, and pay for, tuition that is no longer increasing faster than incomes.
Going a little out of order, but:
- Freeze technical college tuition
This is new and mirrors the benefits already in place with a UW tuition freeze. Frankly, this is long overdue, but it doesn’t address the biggest issue with technical colleges. Shamefully, Wisconsin’s technical colleges are run by unelected boards with taxing authority. They are unaccountable to the taxpayers and have routinely increased taxes and spending at rates far and above those of elected boards. Walker should make it a goal to either make the boards that run technical colleges elected, or strip them of their taxing authority. Without that change, the technical college boards could simply increase taxes even more to continue spending whatever they want even in the face of a tuition freeze.
Still, freezing tuition for the technical colleges is a good start.
These will be the most controversial of Walker’s goals, but they shouldn’t be.
- Put common sense limits on the amount of time able-bodied, working-age childless adults can be on public assistance.
“Common sense” will be the point of contention, but it’s difficult to argue against such a time limit. If you are able-bodied without any dependents, then at some point it is reasonable for the taxpayers should expect you to become a contributor to the tax base instead of a recipient of the fruits of others’ labor. What is the right amount of time? I don’t know. Twelve months seems more than generous.
- Require a drug test for those requesting unemployment and able-bodied, working-age adults requesting Food Stamps from the state.
This is very reasonable too. If one has their hand out seeking financial support from others, it is reasonable for those putting money in that hand to expect a level of responsibility. If a person has money for drugs, then they shouldn’t be permitted to receive the taxpayers’ largesse. Also, if a person is high, it is reasonable to assume that they are also not putting forth their best effort to obtain employment and self-sustainability.
Walker’s objective is noticeably silent, however, on what should happen if a person fails a drug test. He does not state the goal of stopping unemployment or food stamp payments in the event of a person failing a drug test. That is merely my assumption and preference.
Before cutting off benefits in such a circumstance, significant thought will have to be put into managing it. If people are cut off of the safety net, they will react in some fashion. Some will get their stuff together and find work to sustain themselves. Some will rely more heavily on private support systems like churches and family. Some will move to another state with a more generous welfare system. And some will resort to crime. Three of those four outcomes are positive.
- Require working-age childless adults receiving food stamps or unemployment benefits participate in employment training or part-time work.
This item is easy and commonly done in other states. Honestly, I thought that this was already in place from when Tommy Thompson signed W2, but perhaps it has been relaxed more than I thought.
Overall, Walker’s plan is an excellent start on a conservative agenda for his second term. There are some solid proposals that would be real, long-term reforms to benefit Wisconsin.