Two For One View On GOP’s Twisted Take On Private Education in Wisconsin

Here are two quick take-aways from a recent post on Urban Milwaukee by Bruce Murphy about the Wisconsin tax credit for private education. Take a look at the whole article here…but I have my own twisted take on this.

Gov. Scott Walker noted he might to open to changes to the private school tuition tax deduction that primarily benefits the well-to-do.

Why you might ask? Because he’s running for re-election in 2018 and educational policy of all sorts will be in the forefront…and one policy that looks like a giveaway to the rich might not help.

…a recent analysis by [Matthew] DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal found that the wealthiest 13 percent of taxpayers in the state collected almost $8 million — or 66 percent — of the $12 million in tax deductions awarded in 2015.

But it isn’t really a giveaway for the rich, just ask the governor:

In his interview with Walker, DeFour asked why the state was spending $8 million to subsidize private schools for rich people, and Walker answered: “We’re not.”

“We don’t distinguish one way or the other based on income,” he said. “But your question makes it sound like we target them. We don’t.”

There is no telling what the original intent was because this bill passed without comment…but no matter what the intent…the result speaks for itself. There is no reason to not cap income levels who are eligible or cap the amount of tax relief available…and we just might see such legislation before 2018.

But then there’s this weird side take from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald:

The only justification ever offered for the tuition tax deduction was given by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who argued the tax cut would boost private school enrollment, thereby reducing the “huge tax burden” of educating students in public schools.

This is certainly some muddled thinking. Just like vouchers, the majority of these private school students were never in the public school system…were never destined to be…so they wouldn’t be a huge tax burden at all.

AND once again Sen. Fitzgerald exhibits his adroit ability to rob Peter to pay Paul. Just because there is not outlay from the state treasury doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost to the state when you reduce tax revenues. This is the same kind of thinking that Governor Walker applies to transportation funding…a topic we’ll get to later.


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