The Taxpayer Protection Amendment
On February 9, 2006, Republican legislative leaders unveiled a 2,500-word constitutional amendment that would tie state, school, and local goverment tax collections to factors ranging from inflation to population growth, and, for cities and villages, to new construction. The complex, nine-page proposal is based largely on the taxpayer’s bill of rights, or TABOR, a similar constitutional measure that was unsucessful in the 2003-2004 legislative session.
With some exceptions, the new measure would limit certain revenues for counties, municipalities, school districts, technical colleges, and special purpose districts to the lesser of either (1) the three-year average increase in inflation (using the Milwaukee-Racine Consumer Price Index) or (2) the two-year average increase in state personal income.
In addition, the state, counties, technical college districts, and special purpose districts would be allowed to increase their revenues by an amount equal to the percentage increase in their populations. School districts would be allowed a percentage increase equal to the preceeding three-year average increase in enrollment. Finally, cities, towns and villages would be allowed a percentage increase equal to 60% of their growth in new construction. The revenue limits could only be exceeded with the approval of taxpayers at a referendum, but could be permanently lowered by a simple majority vote of the appropriate governmental body.
The Taxpayer Protection Amendment must be approved by lawmakers in two legislative sessions, as well as by voters in a referendum. The measure could go to voters as early as April of 2007.
The Wisconsin Professional Police Association opposes the Taxpayer Protection Amendment, as it will impair our communities’ ability to provide public safety services. When confronted by stringent spending limits or tax freezes, many local officials tend to respond in one of two ways. Often, officials will specifically target police and fire services for cuts, and then use the public safety concerns that result from those cuts to garner public support for spending or tax increases. More commonly, local elected leaders impose flat rate reductions to all of their municipal departments. This may sound fair, but because police and fire services represent a majority of most local budgets in Wisconsin, these services are disproportionately affected. The result is that fewer officers are left on the streets to maintain public safety.
With nearly 11,000 members from more than 375 local associations, the WPPA is Wisconsin’s largest law enforcement association. Our mission is to protect and promote public safety, as well as the interests of the dedicated men and women who serve to provide it. The Taxpayer Protection Amendment runs contrary to that ideal.
Anyone with questions or comments is encouraged to contact WPPA Assistant Executive Director Jim Palmer, either by telephone at 1-800-362-8838, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.