Mark Harris for State Senate - Issues
"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today."- Abraham Lincoln
It is paramount that Wisconsin invests adequately in our states future and that Wisconsin manages its revenue and expenditures in a manner that is fair to everyone including future generations. Below are some issues that must be addressed:
There needs to be a reasonable increase in the minimum wage for both regular and tipped workers and a mechanism to index them so that the new minimums retain their value over time.
The State of Wisconsin has identified necessary highway and bridge projects beyond what the current gas tax and vehicle registration can support. Borrowing to fund these projects aggravates the situation by diverting revenues to interest and principal payments, when those revenues are needed to complete new projects or to maintain the current highway system. The legislature must find the courage to raise sufficient revenues to pay for the improvements or they must cancel many highway projects.
Clean fresh water is a basic human need. It is an essential government function to help all citizens have access to safe, clean drinking water. In older communities lead pipes may pose a risk of lead contamination into public and private water supplies. In much of Wisconsin nitrate contamination has become an issue for families where fertilizer and manure runoff have contaminated their wells. In addition there are areas in Northeast Wisconsin where naturally occurring arsenic and strontium is common. Drawing down water tables increases this contamination of the ground water and the contamination of private wells. State government should provide help if requested with private well testing and investigation of contamination. The State should establish policies that promote responsible control of manure and fertilizer runoff, that encourage the gradual replacement of lead water pipes, and promote comprehensive groundwater management.
Legislation that would make it easier to privatize public water systems without the public's consent and legislation such as SB239/AB874 that would eliminate expiration dates for high capacity well permits are steps in the wrong direction.
FUNDING FOR K-12 PUBLIC EDUCATION
Per pupil funding of K-12 public education has traditionally been a high priority in Wisconsin and we have enjoyed high academic achievement because of that investment. We should continue to provide the level of support needed to maintain a superior school system. If support is provided for a parallel private system it should not come from a diversion of funds from the public school system.
FUNDING FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM
The basic function of Wisconsin's public universities, student education, is funded by two primary revenue streams. Those revenues are student tuition and state support. The last three decades have witnessed a dramatic decrease in the share of revenue coming from the State of Wisconsin and a dramatic increase in the share coming from students and their families. For example the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh received more than 57% of the revenue for student education from State support in 1987. State support had decreased down to roughly 33% by 2012 and it has fallen to about 16% today. This has shifted tremendous costs onto students. It has made college unaffordable for many Wisconsin families or forced students to borrow unreasonable amounts of money to complete their education. As the state budget permits Wisconsin should carefully increase the share of public university education expense covered by state support. This should take pressure off tuition and help the Wisconsin system to avoid the harsh budget cutting occurring at our public universities today.
One of the principals of taxation is horizontal equity. Individuals with similar levels of income should be taxed in a similar fashion. In recent years Wisconsin has adopted tax credits to be phased in through 2016, for corporations involved in manufacturing and agriculture that can nearly eliminate their Wisconsin income taxes. Other corporations continue to have to pay Wisconsin's full corporate rate. In many circumstances the owners of manufacturing or agricultural business that are not in corporate form can have their Wisconsin individual income taxes reduced or eliminated by these credits. Tax policy should not have such disparity where some individuals and corporations pay little or no tax while others with similar incomes are taxed at high rates.
Economic development needs to be a high priority for the state. The Wisconsin Economic development Corporation (WEDC) however has lost the trust of Wisconsin's citizens. There has been at least the appearance of impropriety and a lack of follow through on the loans and grants awarded. It is time to return economic development to the prior model as part of the Department of Commerce. The focus must be on job growth and good stewardship of the public's money.