Recently, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau announced that Wisconsin’s cash balances are significantly outperforming the agency’s expectations. It’s a rewarding time. We got to this point through careful money management and prudent leadership.
I’m suggesting we stop, take a breath, and take this opportunity to systematically reform our tax code for generations to come.
Why? Just ask yourself: no matter how much money the Legislature allocates, why does education always seem to be short of money? Why is transportation going to continue to spiral downward? What happens in 15 years when 24 percent of our population is over the age of 80?
Our tax code is big and complicated. It creates inequality in the marketplace, is difficult to comply with, and is inefficient as a revenue generator. When renters, homeowners, businesses, retirees, and young people are all in agreement over how onerous our tax code is, then you know you have a problem.
We have a tax system that stagnates business growth, discourages wealth creation, and puts the tax burden too harshly on the middle class. There is something systemically wrong with our funding system.
Wisconsin’s strong position is not because of our tax code but in spite of it. For decades, both Republicans and Democrats have been asked to do their best with the tools we had rather than find the tools we need. Our tax laws were put in place well before we could shop online, before cars got over 20 miles to the gallon, and before baby-boomers and millennials could just relocate at will.
Now is the time to take a serious look at our tax code and make it into something that looks like we created it on purpose! The good news is we don’t need more money to adequately fund our state and relieve the pressure on the Wisconsin taxpayer.
Since I was elected in 2014, I have worked diligently on researching how our tax code can work better for everyone. As Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means, I am taking the first two months of our legislative session to outline the problem. We have been meeting each week in January and February to discuss the complicated aspects of our tax code.
Then the real work begins. By working together with my colleagues, Wisconsin taxpayers, businesses, and everyone in-between, we hope to propose a tax code that will propel us into the 21st century, supercharge our economy, and set up a system to support the necessary functions of state government.
I know it’s a tall order, but I believe that the Wisconsin Legislature is up for the task.
Rep John Macco represents the 88th Assembly District.