From the Publisher August 2011

SFitz.jpg Breaking the misinformation campaign

Where the Democrat’s script about tax breaks to big corporations falls short

The political wrangling that’s reared its ugly head during this special election recall season is rife with well-scripted partisan mantras.

It seems perhaps even more so than in the past, partisan agendas in the summer of 2011 are casting a dark shadow over candidates’ ability and desire to stand independently of tutored rhetoric to present original, creative approaches to move Wisconsin forward.

There’s a genuine opportunity out there for a Democrat to step aside from the party’s strategic misinformation campaign and sound intelligent about the economic issues that affect Democrats and Republicans alike. Unfortunately, such instances have been rare.

All too often during the past two months, we’ve heard radio and television advertisements and read direct mail literature filling the mail boxes at our homes condemning the recently enacted 2011-2013 biennial budget as offering “tax breaks to big corporations” – as Democratic script-writers have penned it – illustrated in such a way that one might think of these tax breaks as country club gala door prizes.

Much to the contrary, the tax break components of the budget referred to in Democratic attack ads benefit owners of small local business, those of us who create jobs in northeast Wisconsin, buy goods and services from other businesses here in the region, and sell to customers near and far, bringing new dollars into the New North economy.

So when small business owners struggling to make payroll and stay afloat hear about “tax breaks to big corporations,” many sigh in frustration because those roughly $80 million in tax cuts are aimed at helping them create better lives for the families of their employees, not for lining their pockets with money from heaven. 

The largest portion of those tax dispensations included in the recent budget stem from the income and franchise tax deductions passed by the legislature in January which provides for a deduction of up to $4,000 for every new employee that’s hired by companies grossing less than $5 million annually. The actual amount of that deduction is based upon the salary paid for the new position, and requires a certain amount also be spent on training and development for that new employee. And the position needs to be filled for a certain length of time in order to be eligible for the tax break.

In our April 2011 issue, we highlighted how Oshkosh-based DealerFire used the initiative to help it expand, grow its workforce, and increase its payroll here in northeast Wisconsin. It’s an investment taxpayers will find returns to them several-fold through an enhanced economy.

The second largest portion of the tax breaks cited in Democratic attack ads allow those contributing to their health savings accounts to take a state income tax deduction, another new bit of legislation passed earlier this year which falls in line with the federal income tax deduction for health savings account contributions and matches what 48 other states provide their citizens.

Health savings accounts are hardly a tool for big corporations and the wealthy. Quite the opposite, it’s perhaps the most productive tool available to those of us who haven’t had their health care insurance completely paid by a public-sector employer. For those of us who pay 100 percent of our health insurance costs, or for any employee on their company’s group-sponsored health plan, the ability to make tax-free deposits toward future health care expenses makes HSAs an attractive option and the best way to accept personal responsibility for one’s health and wellness without having to pay all medical bills completely out of pocket.

I had an HSA for years – with no relief from the state of Wisconsin – and discovered it’s perhaps the best solution for those thousands of would-be entrepreneurs working for someone else who are reticent to go out on their own simply because they’re worried about losing the health insurance plan so generously provided by their current employer. It’s been my opinion – and we’ve written editorials to this effect for years – that government ought to do everything reasonable it can to sway Americans towards an HSA model, both for the health of our nation and our economy.

Lastly, the third largest tax relief barked about this recall election season isn’t technically a break at all – it’s simply a deferment. The measure merely delays the payment of capital gains taxes. It doesn’t lessen or eliminate the responsibility to pay those taxes.

If any Democrat wants to stand out from the pack and appeal to more conservative voters in the next few weeks, there’s plenty of opportunity by sounding more intelligent when talking about the economy.