GRAFT TAX SCORECARD

Posted: April 3, 2003
Updated: August 11, 2003

Two Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reports issued earlier this year detailed how tax breaks, loopholes and other state spending decisions benefit special interests who make large campaign contributions to state policy makers at the expense of taxpayers.

“The Graft Tax”; issued in January showed that these perks cost Wisconsin taxpayers $4.6 billion a year, or $1,199 each. A follow-up report, “Graft Tax (Part 2),”; issued in March upped the ante to $5 billion in breaks and loopholes that cost each Wisconsin taxpayer $1,305 a year.

The latest report was issued after Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle issued his 2002 budget repair bill and proposed 2003-05 state budget in response to deficits totaling nearly $3.7 billion from 2002-05. Doyle proposed eliminating only $1 million of the $5 billion in special interest breaks identified by WDC while cutting programs and increasing fees and other costs hundreds dollars per year on the elderly, disabled, homeowners and other sectors of the general public.

In a continuing effort to shed light on the policymaking process and how cash constituents often fare better than voting constituents, WDC intends to track the action taken on items identified in the “Graft Tax”; reports and other sources at each juncture of the budget process. We also will reveal the amount of campaign contributions the decision makers have accepted from the special interests that are affected by the proposals.

The following tables identify the budget items WDC intends to track and the action to be taken during the budget process. After the budget is proposed by the governor the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which is dominated 12-4 by Republicans, spends several weeks making changes it deems necessary before sending it on to the Senate and Assembly, which also are dominated by Republicans, for revisions and passage. If both houses fail to agree on each other’s changes, a committee of legislative leaders, known as a conference committee, crafts a compromise budget and submits it again to the full Legislature for approval. The budget is then sent to the governor who can use his veto power to remove or change policy and spending items before signing it.

Down-loadable Microsoft Word and pdf versions of this document is available.

Affected Special InterestsAffected Public Interests

Here is how special interests fare in the state budget:

Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Shrinking Corporate Tax Burden All sectors of the business community Left unchanged an $839.7 million a year tax break based on the difference between its 2002 share of the tax burden, versus its peak share in 1979. (Doyle has received nearly $1.5 million in campaign contributions from these groups since 1995.) Joint Finance No change. (JFC members have received nearly $2 million in campaign contributions from these interests since 1993.)
Senate No change. (Senators have accepted $4.9 million in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Assembly No change. (Assembly members have accepted $4.8 million in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Final by Governor No Change.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Road Construction Road builders and associated unions Spends about $1.6 billion on state highway construction and maintenance in 2003-05 - 30 percent higher than the national average over two years - to maintain a pressing road-building schedule and even increases projects. (Doyle has accepted $257,625 in contributions from road builder interests since 1995, nearly $128,000 of which he got in the last four months of his campaign for governor.) Joint Finance Increases spending on state highway construction and maintenance to about $1.94 billion in 2003-05 by reviving 99 highway projects worth $250 million that were delayed by Doyle, among other items. Also cuts highway maintenance aid to local governments by $15 million and adds $50 million a year to the major road building budget by diverting sales tax paid on cars from the general fund to the Transportation Fund. Also adds four long-term major road projects worth $500 million. (JFC members have received $89,550 from road builders and related unions since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $311,903 in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $318,360 in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Final by Governor Uses vetoes to cut legislative proposal on major road building and rehabilitation in 2003-05, but still spends $77 million more than was spent on road building and rehabilitation in 2001-03. Vetoes legislative plan to divert $49 million a year in auto sales taxes from the general fund to the Transportation Fund. Fails to restore $15 million in local roads maintenance aid and allows 83 of 99 previously delayed road projects to move ahead. Declines to veto $500 million in future major road projects added by Legislature.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Loopholes in Farmland Use Value Tax Agriculture, developers and real estate interests No change to existing law which provides ever increasing property tax cuts that totaled $251 million in 2002 to farm property owners, but fails to require more accountability by farmers claiming the credit, or to close loopholes that also give breaks to non-farming owners of agricultural land. (Doyle accepted $22,250 since 1995 from agricultural interests which traditionally support Republican candidates.) Joint Finance Orders study of changes to use-value assessment formula. (JFC members have received $475,855 from these interests since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $1.3 million in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $1.3 million in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Final by Governor Uses veto to require the Department of Revenue to study and implement changes in use-value assessment formula, rather than a legislative review process.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Forest, Swamp and Wasteland Tax Cut Agriculture Not applicable; added by JFC. Joint Finance Requires those lands located on farm property to be taxed at 50 percent of assessed value. No estimate of total statewide reduction is available at this time. (JFC members have received $475,855 from these interests since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $1.3 million in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $1.3 million in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Final by Governor Approves proposal but uses vetoes to require that the break only apply to land owned by farmers. Estimated value is $26 million annually. (Doyle has received $28,250 from these interests since 1993.)
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Sales and Property Tax Exemptions Commercial business, manufacturing finance, agriculture and numerous professional service providers Preserves $2.5 billion worth of sales tax exempt property and services; $717 million worth of property tax exemptions. (Doyle has accepted $3 million since 1995 from special interests who benefit from these exemptions.) Joint Finance No change. (JFC members have received $2.3 million from these interests since 1993.)
Senate No change. (Senators have accepted $3.6 million in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Assembly No change. (Assembly members have accepted $3.4 million in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Final by Governor No change.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Ethanol Subsidies Agriculture Cuts by $1 million the $3 million a year state subsidy for ethanol producers. (Doyle accepted $22,250 since 1995 from agricultural interests which traditionally support Republican candidates.) Joint Finance Restores $1 million cut and adds another $1 million per year. (JFC members have received $63,912 from agriculture interests since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $230,123 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $260,540 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor Uses veto to cut ethanol subsidies to $1.9 million a year.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Qualified Economic Offer Public school teachers Elimination of the 3.8 percent limit on salary and benefit increases that teachers may receive. ($4 million in campaign contributions, issue ad and independent spending since 1995 to Doyle and mostly Democratic candidates.) Joint Finance Rejects governor’s proposal. (JFC members have received $33,370 from teachers unions since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Mostly Democratic senators have accepted $228,895 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Mostly Democratic Assembly members have accepted $302,493 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor No action because proposal was removed by Legislature.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Nursing Home Assessments and Forfeiture Surcharges Nursing Homes A $101.7 million increase in nursing home bed assessments to leverage more federal funds and pay for a 3.3 percent increase in the nursing home reimbursement. (Doyle accepted $2,100 in campaign contributions since 1995 from the industry.) Joint Finance Reduces bed assessment increase to $54.6 million and provides $8 million in taxpayer dollars to help fund a 3.2 percent increase in the nursing home reimbursement rate. Rejects the governor’s proposed forfeiture increases for nursing home violations. (JFC members have received $14,468 from the industry since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $26,950 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $42,074 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor Vetoes using $8 million in taxpayer dollars to help fund state reimbursement increase, effectively setting the rate increase at 2.6 percent.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Annual Business Reports from Limited Liability Companies Business Collects $2.7 million a year through a new $25 annual filing requirement for LCCs. (Doyle has accepted $162,657 in campaign contributions since 1995 from the business community.) Joint Finance Retains governor’s proposal. (JFC members have received $206,928 from the business community since 1993.)
Senate Adopts governor’s proposal. (Senators have accepted $544,728 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts governor’s proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $486,462 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor Approves proposal.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Health Maintenance Organization Assessments Health maintenance organizations Collects $77.2 million a year through an assessment to increase federal aid and redistribute to certain HMOs. (Doyle has accepted $14,094 in campaign contributions since 1995 from HMO employees and PACs.) Joint Finance Rejects after governor pulled proposal. (JFC members have accepted $13,035 from this industry since 1993.)
Senate No proposal. (Senators have accepted $59,387 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly No proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $87,254 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor No action because proposal was dropped.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Health Data Collection Contract WI Health and Hospital Association Not applicable; added by JFC. Joint Finance Gives group a $750,000 no-bid contract to collect data. (JFC members have received $20,782 from hospital executives since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $77,599 in campaign contributions from the hospital industry since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $93,916 in campaign contributions from the hospital industry since 1993.)
Final by Governor Approves data collection agreement. (Doyle has accepted $36,203 in campaign contributions from the hospital industry since 1993.)
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Recycling Fee Exemption for PCB Cleanup Paper mills Not applicable; added by JFC Joint Finance Approves a $1 million break from the $3 per ton recycling fee for paper companies removing PCBs from the Fox River. (JFC members have received $25,630 from the paper industry since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $57,650 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $86,459 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor Approves fee exemption. (Doyle has accepted $35,830 in campaign contributions from the paper industry since 1993.)
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Lower Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Standard Beer distributors, tavern and restaurant industries Lower BAC from 0.1 to .08 and retain existing penalties. (Doyle has accepted $26,760 in campaign contributions from these interests since 1995.) Joint Finance Deletes proposal in favor of a separate bill that lowers BAC to .08 but reduces first offense OWI penalties. (JFC members have accepted $77,541 from these interests since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal and approves separate .08 BAC legislation that reduces first offense penalties.(Senators have accepted $272,468 in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal and approves separate .08 BAC legislation that reduces first offense penalties. (Assembly members have accepted $376,976 in campaign contributions from these special interests since 1993.)
Final by Governor Proposal dropped from budget by Legislature. Doyle signs separate legislation that lowers BAC to .08 and reduces first offense penalties. (Doyle has accepted $89,856 in campaign contributions from these interests since 1993.)
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Weakening of Video Gambling Machine Prohibition Taverns Not applicable; added by JFC Joint Finance Prohibits Department of Justice and local law enforcement from enforcing laws that prohibit video gaming in taverns and transfers enforcement authority to the Department of Revenue. (The tavern industry has contributed $52,716 to Finance Committee members since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $156,863 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $227,706 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor Approves Joint Finance proposal. (Doyle has accepted $23,505 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
School Choice Program Milwaukee area and out-of-state business interests Not applicable; added by JFC. Joint Finance Lifts participation and eligibility requirements on the number of schools and pupils who can be in the program. (JFC members have accepted $13,800 from pro-school choice interests since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $52,425 in campaign contributions from school choice supporters since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $64,920 in campaign contributions from school choice supporters since 1993.)
Final by Governor Vetoes Joint Finance Committee proposal to expand participation and eligibility requirements.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Pharmacy Reimbursement Rate Pharmacists Governor proposes a $58 million cut in reimbursements to pharmacies that dispense drugs to Medical Assistance, SeniorCare and BadgerCare program participants. (Doyle has accepted $650 from pharmacists since 1995.) Joint Finance Reduces governor’s proposed reimbursement cut to $7 million. (JFC members have accepted $8,105 from pharmacists since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $21,235 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $23,034 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor Uses vetoes to cut pharmacy reimbursement rate by $10 million.
Item Affected Special Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Special Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Patient’s Compensation Fund Healthcare professionals Doyle proposed drawing $200 million from the fund, which provides supplemental medical malpractice coverage, to help pay for Medical Assistance costs. (Doyle has accepted $331,257 from healthcare professionals since 1995.) Joint Finance Rejects governor’s proposal. (JFC members have accepted $222,675 from healthcare professionals since 1993.)
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Senators have accepted $705,274 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal. (Assembly members have accepted $833,866 in campaign contributions from this special interest since 1993.)
Final by Governor Accepts Joint Finance proposal, saying he cannot change it with vetoes.

Here is how sectors of the general public fare in the state budget:

Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Prison Construction and Cost of Operations Taxpayers A $79.2 million increase in tax dollars to state prison budget; spends $13.2 million to keep two state prisons closed that are too expensive to open; and spends $53 million a year to house inmates out of state. Joint Finance

Reduces governor’s increase in tax dollars to the prison budget to a $54 million increase; spends $26.7 million to open two new prisons mothballed by the governor at a cost of $13.2 million in order to reduce the amount spent to house inmates outside the state.

Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Final by Governor Approves Joint Finance proposal to open the two newly built prisons at a reduced cost of nearly $13 million and reduce the amount spent to house inmates outside the state (no cost reduction estimate yet available.)
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Increased court fees General public A $20.9 million increase in circuit and appellate court filing, service and other fees. Joint Finance Approves $23.1 million in increases
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Final by Governor Approves Joint Finance proposal.
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
SeniorCare, BadgerCare and Medical Assistance Elderly and poor A $39.2 million increase through eligibility, enrollment fee, drug co-payment, premium and deductible increases. Joint Finance Approves additional enrollment fee, drug co-payment and deductible increases to governor’s SeniorCare plan to increase total proposed fee increases to $83.3 million.
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Final by Governor Vetoes $10 million SeniorCare co-payment increase.
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Hunting and Fishing License Fee Increases People who hunt and fish A $23.3 million increase in hunting and fishing fees. Joint Finance Reduces fee increases to about $11.6 million.
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Final by Governor Approves Joint Finance proposal.
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Automobile Fees Drivers - General Public A $99.9 million increase in vehicle registration, titling and environmental impact fees. Joint Finance Approves an estimated $106.9 million in fees increases.
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Final by Governor Approves Joint Finance proposal.
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
New General Equivalency Degree Fees Recipients of High School Equivalency Degrees Collects $168,900 through a new fee for issuing GEDs Joint Finance Adopts governor’s proposal.
Senate Adopts governor’s proposal.
Assembly Adopts governor’s proposal.
Final by Governor Approves proposal.
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
University of Wisconsin Tuition Increases UW students A $150 million tuition increase, or as much as 19 percent or $700 a year at the Milwaukee and Madison campuses and $500 a year at the out-state campuses. Joint Finance Adopts governor’s proposal.
Senate Adopts governor’s proposal.
Assembly Adopts governor’s proposal.
Final by Governor Approves proposal.
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Personal Needs Allowance Reduction Medical Assistance recipients cared for in public institutions An $8.2 million benefit cut that reduces from $45 to $30 a month the amount that MA recipients may keep for personal needs. The $15 cut goes to the institution for the cost of care. Joint Finance Rejects after governor drops proposal.
Senate No proposal.
Assembly No proposal.
Final by Governor No proposal.
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Children with Autism Program Children with autism who receive in-home therapy Eliminate the in-home therapy program to save $8.3 million a year in state funds. Joint Finance

Restores program at a cost of $8.7 million in state funds, but restricts how long a child may be in the program and requires some participants to pay costs.

Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Final by Governor Approves proposal.
Item Affected Public Interest(s) Value of Benefit or Expense to Public Interest in Governor’s Proposed 2003-05 Budget Subsequent Actions
Local Government and School Aid Reductions Homeowners and/or Children Existing law and Doyle’s budget cuts a total of $520 million local government and school aid that must be rectified by cuts in local services and school programs and/or property tax increases and larger class sizes. Joint Finance Reduces total cuts in school and local aids to an estimated $411 million.
Senate Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Assembly Adopts Joint Finance proposal.
Final by Governor Approves an estimated $361 million in cuts to school and local government aids. Restores $46 million in aid cut by the committee to fund four-year-old kindergarten programs, prevents school districts from opting out of a program to reduce class sizes, eliminates a $100 annual limit on per-pupil spending increases by school districts and eliminates proposed levy limits to restrict property tax increases.