As a result, in 2011, property taxes claimed 4.5 percent of the average Wisconsin homeowner's income, compared with 3.6 percent nationwide. Our state income tax in 2011 took another 2.9 percent, again higher than the national average of 2.3 percent. Our sales tax took 2 percent of income, below the national average of 2.4 percent. Other taxes here claimed 2.2 percent of average personal income in 2011, compared with 2.5 percent nationally.
Combined, in 2011, state and local taxes claimed 11.6 percent of Wisconsinites' personal income, compared with 10.8 percent nationally.
A couple of factors should be considered. First, Wisconsin's public employee retirement system is one of the most solvent and best managed in the country. Other states whose tax burden is lower may look better on paper, but an underfunded pension system is going to catch up with them.
Past talk of shifting property taxes elsewhere has led in a circle. Sales tax is provably the most regressive, hitting lower-income folks the hardest. The income tax seems the truest measure of ability to pay and can be graduated to give a break to those with lower-paying jobs, but too-high income taxes can drive rich people out.
No matter where government revenues come from, the best policy is for citizens to press their elected representatives to operate government as efficiently as possible to help ensure all tax dollars are spent wisely.
Appleton Post-Crescent, July 9
EPA coal rule is needed step
There's more than one reason to wean the nation from coal-fueled energy.
Coal produces carbon dioxide emissions, which harm our environment and, as a result, our health. And, coal isn't going to last forever.
So, it's better for the United States if we're a leader in making the transition away from coal — if we're more proactive than reactive. There are some who say we're already in the position of being reactive.
Whatever perspective you prefer, the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rule about coal emissions is a needed step.
The proposal would require states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants by as much as 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
That "compared to 2005 levels" is important because emissions have already been reduced 15 percent since then, so the power industry is already halfway to the goal — and will get another 15 years, if the proposal is finalized, to get there.
The EPA proposal will give each state a year to come up with its implementation plan. It also gives states much flexibility about how they achieve the reductions. That should help those states that are more dependent on the coal industry for jobs, though there's more that the Obama administration needs to do to help those states' economy.
Will it cost money and lead to higher electric bills? Probably, but as the Washington Post reports, the American Wind Energy Association notes that consumer costs declined in the last five years in the 11 states that use the most wind energy.
And, energy cost increases will be more than made up for with lower health care cost increases as rates of asthma, lung diseases and heart attacks will decrease. The EPA estimates the nation will see $7 in lower health costs for every $1 in higher energy costs.
For all the rancor about the EPA's proposal, there's an equally compelling argument that it doesn't go far enough.
What's true is that we can't go on as we have been. We have to change. This plan, as imperfect as it may be, takes us in the right direction.