Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Taxing Silliness

I don't mean to pick on the Green Bay Press Gazette - theirs just happens to be the article that I read after hearing a number of radio reports about this.

Wisconsin District Attorneys want to raise taxes on beer and other alcohol to help pay District Attorneys.

We'll do this old-skool - my comments in italics:

Two area DAs support higher tax on alcohol
State proposal would fund more prosecutors
By John Lee • Gannett Wisconsin Media • December 9, 2008

Two prosecutors in the region say they support a proposal to raise the state's beer and liquor taxes to pay for more prosecutors.

Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz and Waupaca County District Attorney John Snider say their offices could use additional prosecutors.

----Has Mr. Kratz talked this over with others in Calumet County? I find it odd, or maybe not, that a County DA in Calumet County of all places would want to risk his elected position in the home of one of the largest malting facilities in the United States. Not to mention the brewery across the street.

The Wisconsin District Attorneys Association, saying there is a link between alcohol abuse and criminal behavior, is asking the Legislature to approve a "modest" increase in alcohol taxes to fund prosecutors' pay raises and 121 prosecutor positions it says are needed to handle a growing caseload statewide.

----There is also a link between drug abuse and criminal behavior, between education and criminal behavior, between genetics and criminal behavior, between environment and criminal behavior, etc. etc. etc. A lot of things contribute to criminal behavior, but Gov. Doyle cut the funds to the District Attorneys and now they're scrambling, I get that. But taxing beer because it contributes to criminality? Please, why not tax bowling alleys because criminals meet there?

----Now look, I'm an attorney. I fully support the idea that DAs need to be paid better. I think it is criminal (there's that word again) that this state gives its public officers barely inflation increases (often not even that!) for jobs that start out poorly paid to begin with. Yeah, I know, boo-hoo for the guy making $48,000 a year. But when 1/3 of that goes to taxes, then 1/3 of the remainder (if you're lucky!) goes to school loans, these attorneys are left with less than $25,000 with which to pay for housing, cars, and other living expenses. And for that awesome salary they have to work endless hours with ridiculous case loads against defense attorneys with years more experience, in a job that only draws notice when it is done poorly. It's a terrible life. They should be paid better for it. But there are options other than taxing a tentatively-linked product at best. Lobby the federal government for student loan relief for public service. Lobby the state for tax relief. But to tax beer and alcohol?

Wisconsin's beer tax — the third lowest in the nation — hasn't gone up since 1969. The liquor tax, among the lowest nationwide, hasn't increased since 1981, other than when a new tax on hard cider was added in 1997.

Wisconsin's 6.5-cent tax per gallon of beer is two or three times less than what neighboring states charge. The tax is 14.8 cents in Minnesota, 18.5 cents in Illinois, 19 cents in Iowa and 20.3 cents in Michigan.

----They also have lower state income taxes than Wisconsin. We pay more on income taxes, they pay more for beer. So what?

"For years, the state budget process has placed prosecutors at the back of the line to the detriment of public safety and crime victim services," said Ralph Uttke, Langlade County district attorney and president of the WDAA.

----Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The man speaks the truth.

The prosecutors' proposal drew opposition from the Tavern League of Wisconsin, which represents bars.

It doesn't make sense to raise the beer tax and earmark that increase for a specific budget item, Tavern League lobbyist Scott Stenger said Monday.

"That's not the way state government works," he said. "We think it's a bad precedent, and if there's going to be a discussion on taxes, it needs to be more global."

----Mr. Stenger is absolutely right. That's not how the state government. We don't publicly debate things and come to some amicable solution before putting reasonable bills that care for the public interest! Mr. Uttke should just do what Mr. Stenger and the Tavern League does and make the public discussion more "global" and theoretical and then surreptitiously buy-off legislators who will get the bill added at the last minute to an over-due budget. That way you can short-cut this whole "debate" thing and get the solution you want - geez, haven't you heard the phrase "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission"?

The WDAA resolution also supports using additional revenue generated from the alcohol tax increase to fund law enforcement, crime victim services, community outreach, prevention and education, and other programs designed to decrease crime in Wisconsin.

----How much do they want to raise the damn tax!? That's a lot of "additional revenue". Plus, what do they want to do about Tereca Berceau's Beer Tax? Is this in addition to her crack-pot idea or is this support and extension of her crack-pot idea that we've put holes in time-and-time again?

"Any funding source we can find to help get more prosecutors makes sense," said Kratz, who noted that he could use a second assistant district attorney, but wouldn't request one until area counties with worse shortages get some help.

----That's so noble of you Mr. Kratz.

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