Empower Wisconsin | May 7. 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — To no one’s surprise, state tax collections plummeted last month amid the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
And conservative lawmakers say things will only get much worse if Gov. Tony Evers doesn’t immediately act to end his destructive statewide lockdown and re-open Wisconsin.
Tax collections for April, at $1.45 billion, declined by $870 million compared to the same month a year ago, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Revenue is down $313 million — or about half of what once was a projected $600 million plus state surplus — in the first 10 months of the 2020 fiscal year, which ends June 30.
“As anticipated, due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy, the April report indicates a significant reduction in collections,” the Fiscal Bureau report notes. Because of the pandemic, the state also extended income and tax filing deadlines from April to July 15.
Individual income tax collections fell $676 million last month compared to taxes collected in April 2019. Much of that decline is “likely caused by the delayed filing dates…”
State Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) said it will be a while before we see a full picture of declining tax revenue.
“What is clear is the state is hemorrhaging money because of the governor’s inflexibility about getting Wisconsin back to work,” Craig said.
Evers’ controversial Badger Bounce Back plan has done little to date to lift restrictions on so-called “nonessential businesses” while Wisconsinites are ordered to stay at home and avoid “nonessential travel.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has surged to nearly 20 percent with about a half-million workers filing for unemployment benefits. Preliminary corporate income/franchise tax collections for April, declined by a whopping 69 percent, to $81 million in year-over-year comparisons.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the state Department of Health Services’ order extending Evers original stay-at-home order through May 26 — possibly later.
“Today’s @WSJ confirms what so many of us already knew. @GovEvers is harming Wisconsin with his handling of COVID-19,” state Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) tweeted earlier this week.
Today’s @WSJ confirms what so many of us already knew. @GovEvers is harming Wisconsin with his handling of COVID-19. He is 1 of only 4 governors to earn an “F” according to a recent report from @Comm4Prosperity. https://t.co/zpaIxuKC7w
— Duey Stroebel (@SenStroebel) May 4, 2020
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board details a new report that gives Evers and three other governor’s — Phil Murphy (D-New Jersey), Tom Wolf (D-Pennsylvania), and Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) — a grade of “F” for their response to the pandemic.
The ratings come from the Committee to Unleash Prosperity and were put together by economist Art Laffer, Steve Moore of the Heritage Foundation, market analyst Phil Kerpen and journalist John Fund.
“The premise of this report is that – with a few exceptions in some metropolitan areas – the time is long past for every state to reopen safely, smartly, and judiciously so as to end the economic destruction and despair from lockdowns,” the report, “Grading Our Governors: A Report Card on Reopening States’ Economies,” notes.
“Millions more Americans will be pushed into unemployment lines, plunged into poverty, and lose their businesses – forever. State revenue losses will be severe and continued shutdowns will require dramatic cutbacks in state and local services for lack of money.”
With tax collections plummeting, Craig said Evers needs to be concerned about the necessity of a budget repair bill.
“Clearly, if the governor does not take the responsibility of opening the state, the economic forecast that we saw today will only get more dire,” the senator said. “It will put us in a position where we have to make decisions far beyond our savings (the surplus and the rainy day fund) and closer to real spending reductions.”
And Evers’ 5 percent reductions in government operations — about $70 million worth in a massive, $84 billion biennial budget — isn’t going to cut it, Craig said.
“I would expect that a governor dedicated to government largess like Gov. Evers would understand that the size of government is going to be dependent on his actions and getting the state back open in earnest,” the lawmaker added.
TV ad calls on Evers to re-open Wisconsin
Madison businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde unveiled a television ad Wednesday asking Gov. Tony Evers to end the state-wide lockdown and open up Wisconsin.
In the 60-second ad, Hovde asks Evers the question on the minds of a lot of Wisconsinites: Why?
“Governor Evers, the level of infections and fatalities from COVID-19 has been materially less than feared by your original projections. However, the consequences to jobs, livelihoods, and well-being have been severely impacted by the ‘Safer at Home’ Order,”
Hovde’s website, OpenWisconsinToday.org states. It’s the debut project of the businessman’s 501(C)(4) organization.
The site includes a petition.
“We, the undersigned, demand that you immediately re-open the State of Wisconsin for commerce, social interaction, unrestricted travel, and restore the civil rights and civil liberties of our citizens.”
Watch the ad here.