CommunityThe Bullpen

Dept. of Errata: Wisconsin 2/3 Requirement Edition

I’m on the Badger Bus headed in toward Madison, but I wanted to update a story from yesterday. Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that would force a 2/3 requirement for any increases to income, sales or franchise taxes. Living with the horrors of Prop. 13 and artificial super-majority requirements, I immediately threw up a red flag. What I did not know at the time that this legislation only applied to the current legislative cycle, with the caveat that the bill sponsor said a Constitutional amendment would be in the offing soon:

Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, said taxpayers are demanding a higher threshold to increase taxes.

“This sends a clear message to the people of Wisconsin that we’re serious about our commitment to not raise taxes,” she said […]

The Assembly passed the bill in January on a 57-36 vote. The bill would only apply to the current Legislature, though Vukmir said a constitutional amendment will follow.

“You either starve the beast or you feed the beast. And we’ve been feeding the beast for far too long,” Vukmir said.

It’s not like a heavily Republican legislature was going to move tax increases anyway. So this doesn’t tell us a whole lot except that there will be no taxes increased to account for the upcoming $3.6 billion budget deficit in Wisconsin. However, fees could be increased, which has happened in the state in recent years.

Watch out for that Constitutional amendment, however. That’s basically what did in California. Let’s take a look at the Constitutional amendment process in the state.

It says that Constitutional amendments must be passed by two successive legislatures by majority vote, and then adopted by the electorate in a ratification vote before taking effect. We’re a ways off from that. Scott Walker strikes me as the type who would absolutely push for this and campaign on it, and the fact that it only takes a majority vote on those three votes should be taken into account. But given how Walker is running the ship of state in his first month, I’m not sure he will have a majority to do much of anything after the next elections.

So, disaster averted. Apologies for the alarmism. I will say that anti-tax measures and “taxpayer bills of rights” are sure to pop up around the country, and progressives ought to be mindful of them.

UPDATE: This doesn’t mean, of course, that subsequent legislatures couldn’t adopt this kind of anti-tax measure for their 2-year cycle, and make it a “permanent” outcome. We know how Democrats can be pressured into an anti-tax pose.

Previous post

Labor Fights Spread Across Big Ten States

Next post

Goldman Sachs Analysis: GOP Continuing Resolution Would Reduce GDP By 1.5-2%

David Dayen

David Dayen