Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fact check: Green should point at himself

Well, what do you know? WISC-TV in Madison has done a reality check on Mark Green's tax claims. Guess what? He should be blaming himself, not Jim Doyle, for the change in Tax Freedom Day in Wisconsin.

Reality Check: Political Tax Talk Can be Misleading

Wisconsin is often considered a high tax state. Recent rankings support that. Tax comparisons with other states haven't dramatically changed since Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle took office in 2003.

The question: Is it getting better or worse?

Doyle points to U.S. Census Bureau tax rankings which show a modest improvement. In 2002, the year before Doyle took office, Wisconsin ranked 11th highest when comparing state tax paid per capita.

In 2005, the latest ranking, Wisconsin dropped two spots to 13th.

However, WISC-TV finds this claim "needs clarification."

Wisconsinites are still paying $258 more per capita than 4 years ago. Also, the state residents pay $237 more than the national average, but that figure is down from $309 in 2002.

The census bureau tax rankings are missing a big component. It only takes state taxes into account and leaves out local taxes like property tax and county sales taxes.

The Tax Foundation calculates a more accurate measure of how Wisconsin compares with other states becuase it takes into account local taxes.

In its latest ranking, Wisconsin is 7th worst in the nation.

The group is known for its "Tax Freedom Day" rankings. It calculates how long it would take a person to pay off their tax burden if all their income went toward it. In Wisconsin, in 2006, it would take the average citizen until April 28.

Republican candidate for governor, Rep. Mark Green, has used that ranking to criticize Doyle.

"When Jim Doyle took office our Tax Freedom Day was April 19. This year, it's April 28. We're going in the wrong direction and it's hurting our economy," said Green, at a campaign rally Monday in Green Bay.

WISC-TV's Reality Check report finds that claim "misleading."

Over the past four years, in that survey, Wisconsin's state and local tax burden has improved from 4th highest to 7th. And, while it's still high, it's the state's best ranking since 1980.

But, the reason Wisconsin's Tax Freedom Day is nine days later than when Doyle first started in office is because the federal government has been asking for more money. The Tax Foundation report shows federal spending drove the change -- not state or local governments.

And Green voted for three of the last four federal budgets.

At the state level, if elected, Green said Monday he would freeze property taxes and state tax collections in his first year in office


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