For nearly a year now, Mary Burke has gotten away with running for governor with the self-proclaimed moniker that she is “a fiscal conservative.” And in what has become typical of the media coverage afforded to Democrats in Wisconsin, this claim has gone largely unchallenged.
The truth is Mary Burke is running a stealth campaign to hike property taxes - she just chooses to address it in oblique terms.
The tax issue would certainly provide a needed illustration of what’s at stake in this race for Wisconsin voters. Burke claims she’s a fiscal conservative whose “goal is to lower property taxes” and that she’s “particularly concerned about the very high property taxes across the state.” But following her Chamber of Commerce speech, Burke suggested that Wisconsin’s property tax caps are “strangling our communities” and signaled she would work to raise the caps if elected.
“Property taxes in Wisconsin are high. And what we need to do is look for how we’re going to, again, grow our economy. That’s the best way to bring taxes down. But also strangling our communities isn’t actually going to make sure that we’re competitive,” Burke said. She did not indicate how much she would raise Wisconsin’s tax cap on municipalities and counties, saying only that she would “work with our communities to understand what is a reasonable level.”
While Burke caveats her comments by arguing that property taxes are high, she simultaneously wants to see caps that keep the taxes low eliminated. Eliminating the caps would mean tax hikes for many hard-working Wisconsinites.
In response to a question at a Wispolitics.com luncheon at the Madison Club about what she would cut in the next state budget, Burke went further, calling statewide vouchers "a new entitlement program we frankly don’t need." She also identified the private school tax deduction as something she would cut.
"I respect people’s choice in making that, but I don’t think we should be subsidizing that choice," Burke said, referring to sending children to private schools.
Again, Mary Burke doesn’t come out and say it but eliminating the private school tax deduction would mean a tax increase for school choice families.
And finally, there is Act 10. Mary Burke has gotten away with supporting the restoration of collective bargaining rights while suggesting that she would retain the contributions provisions. This is entirely incoherent. The heart and soul of Act 10 revolves around the elimination of collective bargaining rights. The entire reason the Act 10 reforms were necessary were because labor bosses refused to accept the cost-saving provisions like contributions to pensions and healthcare.
Unless Mary Burke has a magic spell to cast on labor bosses that would suddenly make them look out for taxpayers, she is getting away with a completely bogus position.
Not to mention, Mary Burke has never once had to answer how she would make up for the $3 billion in Act 10 savings for local governments by gutting the law. Hint: her answer would have to be tax hikes.
That Mary Burke has been able to get this far into the campaign without ever once having to explain any of these tax hike proposals is nothing short of journalistic negligence and malpractice.