Former journalist George Mitchell has taken to Right Wisconsin to attack Wisconsin’s conservatives in the last few days. Governor Walker, Senator Darling, and I have recently been targets of his poorly thought-out vitriol.

In one of Mitchell’s attack du jour, he accused me of “doublespeak” as it relates to WisDOT funding.

Let’s be clear. Those asking for new tax revenue for WisDOT believe government is not growing fast enough.

As a senator, I am one of twenty Republicans in the caucus. The caucus has made a priority to complete started projects. Senate Republicans have garnered a consensus to borrow in the short term to meet these projects’ deadlines while reforming WisDOT in the long term. George Mitchell claims permanent tax increases are more “conservative.”

This is simply not the case.

Consider the five cent gas tax floated as a long term solution that increases revenue by $150 million per year. After twenty years, the taxpayers would have paid $3 billion more in taxes. The tax continues in perpetuity. Our kids and grandkids are saddled with high taxes

Consider $150 million in bonding. After twenty years the bonds are finished at a total cost of approximately $240 million. Our kids and grandkids do not continue to pay the debt servicing.

Plain and simple, raising taxes grows government. In this scenario, by billions.

Taxes are forever. Bonds retire.

This budget will borrow the lowest amount since the early 2000s. Even with a slight increase to the Governor’s borrowing proposal, the amount of WisDOT borrowing will be lower than the now expired budget.

In this budget debate, the Senate Republicans have agreed to eliminate three taxes: state forestry property tax, alternative minimum tax and personal property tax. Yet, some in the Assembly have not obliged. This debate to eliminate the personal property tax showcases how hard it is to eliminate a tax. It has been around since before statehood.

Conservatives might also remember the bloody battle over the elimination of automatic increases to the gas tax a decade ago. Even though Wisconsin’s gas tax has remained frozen for ten years, our state’s motorists pay one of the largest gas taxes at the pump.

Senate Republicans are eliminating taxes in this budget. That is more conservative than holding out for tax increases. I am proud to be judged on the conservative scale on this dichotomy.

When Mitchell writes, the former journalist sounds more like a member of the mainstream media crafting his own narrative than a person having an honest debate with facts.

The reality is tax and spend Republicans – like Mitchell – have sucked all the air out of the budget debate. This includes discussion on school choice expansion for which Mitchell falsely accuses Governor Walker and Senator Darling of not supporting. His tax and spend allies have held that hostage for revenue uppers in transportation.

In the end, Senate Republicans are borrowing in the short term and reforming the WisDOT for future success. Other Republicans are looking to explode the growth of WisDOT at the expense of all taxpayers – especially saddling future generations with high taxes.

Remember – even with all of our great reforms – Wisconsin still ranks near the top ten on the Tax Foundation’s rankings for tax climate. There is still more work to do. If the some Republicans get their way, Wisconsin’s rankings will go in the wrong direction.

If the Senate Republican position holds, Wisconsin’s tax climate rankings will continue to improve as they have throughout Governor Walker’s leadership.

Senator Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, represents Wisconsin’s 20th senate district.
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