Calling bullshit on Mark Green's promises
Someone finally calls bullshit on Congressman Mark Green for making a promise a day without ever saying how much it will cost or how he'll pay for it.
Surprisingly, it is the conservative Wisconsin State Journal that blows the whistle in this Wednesday editorial:
Pile of promises burden budget
Mark Green keeps saying the state budget is in terrible shape.
Well, if that's true, then he should stop proposing huge tax breaks that will only make matters worse.
The GOP congressman from Green Bay who hopes to become Wisconsin's next governor announced Monday he would exempt the first $20,000 of retirement plan income for people 62 and older.
Plenty of older folks in Wisconsin could certainly use a break on their taxes. But Green is so far refusing to say how much his idea would cost or how he would pay for it.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle also has made expensive campaign promises that will only make a difficult state budget next year that much harder.
But Green's pitch to ditch such a huge chunk of taxes on retirement income is by far the biggest and most unrealistic promise so far.
A previous proposal for a tax exemption half the size of Green's would have cost $150 million to $200 million a year, according to the Department of Revenue. That means the cost of Green's tax break could run as high as $300 million to $400 million a year.
That's a big hole to fill in a state budget that's already propped up by money raids and accounting tricks.
Green knows he can't afford his idea any time soon. So he pulled the oldest trick in the book - one that Doyle and the Legislature have repeatedly used in recent years. Green is proposing to phase in his idea over several years. That way, he can take credit for the tax break now and push the cost into future years for someone else to worry about.
That strategy, used again and again at the state Capitol, is largely to blame for current state budget problems.
Instead of making fat promises with no way to pay for them, state leaders should responsibly shore up the existing state budget and reject expensive new programs and unrealistic tax giveaways.
Everybody loves tax breaks. But the state also needs to pay its bills and keep its prior commitments.
Green is obviously pandering in the weeks before the Nov. 7 election to older Wisconsin residents who tend to vote in higher numbers.
Older voters shouldn't take Green's plan seriously unless two things happen. First, Green needs to come clean on the cost. If he doesn't have an estimate for the tax break when fully implemented, he'd better get one. Secondly, he should identify areas of state spending he would cut to help make up for the lost revenue.
Wisconsin is waiting.