Saying that "the road to fiscal responsibility and budgetary solvency starts with reducing state government spending,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett seemed to turn his back on his lifelong career of taxing and spending. Or did he?
“After raising taxes and spending at every level of government, it’s nice that Mayor Barrett is at least talking about spending cuts,” said Chris Kliesmet, Executive Administrator of Citizens for Responsible Government. “Lip service is more than taxpayers have ever gotten from ‘Tom the Taxer’.”
On Monday, Barrett proposed a plan that he claims would account for $1.1 billion in spending cuts. Unfortunately for taxpayers, he made no commitment to cut taxes or state spending. His plan allows him to cut spending in one part of the state budget to increase spending someplace else.
“An individual spending cut without an overall commitment to lower spending and taxes is meaningless to taxpayers,” said Kliesmet. “Barrett’s plan just shifts our money from one government pot to another without any relief for taxpayers.”
The Barrett proposal does not call for repealing the $3 billion in higher taxes and fees passed in the last state budget and it does not call public employee layoffs, public employee health insurance reforms, or pension reforms.
“Tom Barrett has made a career out of raising taxes, so I am somewhat skeptical of his election-year conversion to fiscal responsibility,” Kliesmet said. “In fact, while Governor Jim Doyle and the Legislature raised taxes and fees by $3 billion last year, Tom Barrett sat idly by as over 100,000 jobs left Wisconsin. The Mayor of Milwaukee was Jim Doyle’s silent partner on those tax hikes.”
Think Barrett is serious about being a fiscal conservative? Look at his record:
Voted for what may have been the largest tax increase in state history as a State Senator in 1991. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/7/04)
In Congress, supported the largest tax increase in U.S. history in 1993. The bill included 41 separate tax increases, including a gas tax increase and a tax increase on Social Security benefits. The nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee reported that the tax bill raised the tax burden on every taxpayer earning $20,000 and above. (Vote 406, 8/5/93; Joint Committee on Taxation, 8/23/93)
Voted against reducing income tax rates; against relief of the “marriage penalty; against a phase-out of the federal estate tax; against helping families by doubling the child tax credit; and against incentives for retirement savings. (Vote 149, 5/26/01)
Voted against repealing the tax on Social Security payments. (Vote 450, 7/27/00)
In Congress, voted against repeal the gas tax hike. (Vote 182, 5/21/96)
Voted for a federal energy tax that would have increased the tax burden in Wisconsin by an estimated $375 million and raised the price of energy for Wisconsin families, businesses, and farmers. (Vote 199, 5/27/93; Tax Foundation, 5/93)
When campaigning to be Mayor of Milwaukee, he attacked his opponent for raising taxes. But, after winning that election, Barrett proposed tax increases every year he has been in office. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/31/04; Milwaukee City Budgets).
Since being elected as Mayor of Milwaukee, taxes have increased, fees have increased, spending has increased, debt has increased, interest payments on the debt have increased, and the unemployment rate in the city has gone up. (Milwaukee City Budgets, Wisconsin Dept. of Workforce Development).
When he ran for Mayor of Milwaukee, he attacked opponent for raising the fee charged to homeowners for garbage pickup. After he was elected, Barrett raised the garbage fee by 76%. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/31/04 and 9/27/05)
Supported a sales tax increase to fund KRM rail service. (Finance panel backs Milwaukee County transit board, sales tax boost, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 1, 2009)
Supported a 0.15% city sales tax (Finance panel backs Milwaukee County transit board, sales tax boost, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 1, 2009)