City Council Vote Tuesday On New Recycling Fee For Madison Homeowners, WORT Radio Reports, Interviewed This Blogger

Last week the City Finance Committee approved imposing a new fee (a.k.a. tax) on recycling.  The matter will now go before the full City Council Tuesday, April 19th.

The annual $50.00 fee should not need to be imposed, as the reason we pay property taxes is for basic city services. For me it is the principal of this matter, and not the fee amount.

This new fee has not even been enacted and council members, such as tax sponsor Alder Furman, are suggesting more new taxes to come so as to have unlimited sources of new revenue, (unlike your income).   “This will only get worse,” he said, saying the 2023 budget will need to be even more clever with how it addresses budget gaps. 

During the finance committee debate, the supporters/city staff said that the new fee has to be a flat fee per property, not number of bins, and with no opt out; or, otherwise, the city would be encouraging people not to recycle. 

Given that Mayor Rhodes-Conway made the unprecedented move of replying to constituent emails to defend her recycling tax, she must be concerned that city residents can defeat this.  Already, three of the six alders who co-sponsored her recycling tax have withdrawn their names as co-sponsors!!  In other words, even if Madison taxpayers have already done so, please contact your alder and all the council to express your opposition. 

WORT news reported on this recycling fee and asked for an interview. The story starts at about the 14-minute mark. I provided the balance about the role of property taxes and basic services. I find it interesting that the report did not entertain one idea or foster a viewpoint about cutting city government and programming.   Just taxing more.

Click on the link below, then click the audio archive for Wednesday, April 13th. (My gain should have been higher on the soundboard as it sounds like I am a low talker.)

I must admit when the mayor talked about ‘putting on thinking caps’ in this news report I did gasp upon hearing it. I swear that those words from an adult outside of a first grade class is remarkable. But her term in office falls under the snarky-phrased term remarkable, too.

My bottom line is too many at the city level have cast this debate about recyling instead of the way certain taxes are to pay for certain projects in a city. With news media playing to the same tune as the ones promoting this fee there is no doubt the measure will pass Tuesday night.

The consequences for alders at election time next year, well, that is a promise many will carry until balloting in the spring elections.

And so it goes.

Madison Citizens Weigh In On New Curbside Recycling Fee

Above the fold on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal readers were alerted to a newly proposed fee for their curbside recycling pickup. Over the past two weeks, I have been pressing against this issue, not because of the estimated cost of $50.00 per year for homeowners, but because basic city services should already be paid for by property taxes.

This morning the newspaper explained what has been chatted about over neighborhood fences and listserves around the city. Some of those voices are found in this post.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and three council members proposed the ordinance adding the charge, recommended in the 2022 budget approved by the council in November.

The Finance Committee voted 4-1 with one member absent to endorse the fee, estimated at about $4.10 per month, or about $50 annually per household. The charge would generate about $1.5 million in its first half year for the city’s $360.3 million operating budget. In its first full year, in 2023, it is estimated to generate $3 million.

Some have labeled the idea as regressive taxation but one city resident I heard from simply nailed it best by calling the “Resource Recovery Special Charge” as being Orwellian-named.

The mayor and alders should not need to be told that the basics of city government, be it trash, fire, police, and street maintenance, are considered to be covered by our tax payments. No add-on fees for the basics!  Before we build public markets and do things that are perhaps nice to have, we need to make sure that the basics of city living are financed and ready to operate.

So, what’s next?  Charging for trash pick-up?  After all, not everyone gets trash pick-up (e.g., commercial properties, apartment buildings).  Once upon a time, these charges for the public good were paid for by tax dollars.

I have received a number of comments in emails about this matter, especially after I posted twice on Next Door. There is a lively crowd of residents on that website who seemed genuinely interested in more information about this new fee. Such fees, it should be noted, are politically useful so those in local government can then claim they have kept property taxes lower.

But the emails which landed in my box–most of which also were sent by the writers to the Finance Committee or elected officials, and are now available to the public, did not mince any words with how they felt. I offer three of them to underscore the energy this fee has generated.

From Rick Soletski , who made a point to city alders in his letter that was echoed by the front page of the newspaper story today.

If the recycling program is not a basic service, but a nicety, let us know.  Release the mandatory requirement and let those willing to pay another tax keep their green bins and participate and be billed

If it is a basic service and a requirement to recycle, then it should be covered by our already high property taxes. By the way, my household recycles religiously. 

Finally, you know very well that this is a shell game.  When you raise this tax, you won’t lower our other taxes.  It will backfill other city spending.   Much like you did with the wheel tax when the council and mayor did not want to do the hard work to make revenues balance spending.  Instead, raise a new tax dedicated to transportation, and take that money to spend on something else. 

Please note the line beneath the headline about budget gap filling.

Dan Young wrote numerous letters, but this one was sent to Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway who is the lead sponsor of the fee, and pressed the issue of basic services.

Your argument for the tax, as stated in the proposal is that, “Over time, the City’s costs to operate its recycling program, including the costs of collecting, sorting and recycling waste, have increased.  It is reasonable that all or a portion of the costs incurred to provide this service be recovered from those using the service, rather than all taxpayers in the City.”   Yes, no doubt the costs have increased.   As we know, the cost of everything has been increasing, including OUR PROPERTY TAXES.   And, property tax payers expect and should get basic services for those increasing property taxes and not be charged an additional tax.   Basic services serve the common good, as do our schools, when they are not otherwise failing.   

Tracy Doreen Dietzel wrote the Finance Committee about her reasons for opposing the new fee, but strongly argued for the need to have a recycling program that is structured with more community input.

I have lived in Madison long enough to pay property taxes in total over the years an amount more than double the cost of what I paid for my house. I have told people for many years that while we have some of the highest taxes in the country, at least our leaders have had the wisdom to include basic services without added fees. Perhaps you are needing some counsel from citizens to not lose that wisdom.

Please consider that in adding fees without taking the opportunity to engage in rigorous discussion with community, you may well miss more effective alternatives to this proposal.

People on fixed incomes struggling to remain in their beloved community, people who reuse, upcycle and do not buy single use plastics or who do not create waste. Will they pay the same as someone who clogs up recycling with wishcycling?

The placement of the news story about the new fee on the front page will allow for a greater conversation in our city about this matter. It will now make it far harder for alders to not issue a statement about the issue or send glib comments to their constituents. I suspect all of a sudden the city is now paying attention.

And so it goes.

Madison’s Proposed Recycling Tax Must Be Rejected By Alders

As Barney Fife would say ‘We need to nip it. Nip it in the bud’.

From the early reaction to a truly up-side-down proposal for Madison to harvest more from taxpayers via a newly proposed recycling tax, it would seem that nipping is in the air as spring begins.

Some have labeled the idea as regressive taxation but one city resident I heard from simply nailed it best by calling the “Resource Recovery Special Charge” as being Orwellian-named. Last week this matter was introduced at the council meeting.

There is no doubt that the ordinance title gives no clue about the actual change being sought.  What is being asked of taxpayers, however, who reside in residential properties is an additional fee to get curbside recycling services. The intent is that Madison will set a fee that will reimburse the local government for the costs of recycling.  The anticipated total recovery is $3M for 2023 ($1.5M for 2022).

The rationale from the city government is that “Over time, the City’s costs to operate its recycling program, including the costs of collecting, sorting and recycling waste, have increased.  It is reasonable that all or a portion of the costs incurred to provide this service be recovered from those using the service, rather than all taxpayers in the City.”

This new proposed fee is a very bad idea. Even at a time when the city might be searching for more revenue.  At first glance, it seems to me people will opt to place their recyclable material into the trash and that will undercut the environmental goals that our city government strives to implement.  

The mayor and alders should not need to be told that the basics of city government, be it trash, fire, police, and street maintenance, are considered to be covered by our tax payments. No add-on fees for the basics!  Before we build public markets and do things that are perhaps nice to have, we need to make sure that the basics of city living are financed and ready to operate.

So, what’s next?  Charging for trash pick-up?  After all, not everyone gets trash pick-up (e.g., commercial properties, apartment buildings).  Once upon a time, these charges for the public good were paid for by tax dollars.

If the mayor needs to have more cash she needs to do like everyone else during the pandemic.  Cut here and there and come up with the funds.  But do not seek it from the city residents who already are knowing they have paid for the city services with their property taxes. 

As city residents are being made aware of this issue it becomes more clear as to why the mayor and alders wanted to hide this nugget from the public.  If it is such a swinging idea why has no one pushing for it contacted the local reporters to write up an article? Let the whole city know what a brilliant idea has been hatched. Why hide from the wild adulation which would surely follow!

Right?

My readers have reached out and they sound much akin to this email I received at Caffeinated Politics.

Yes, no doubt the costs have increased, BUT SO HAVE PROPERTY TAXES THAT PAY FOR THOSE COSTS.  Will fees for collecting your trash, leaves, and brush be next?  Or, to use the library?  Or, to send your child to school?

So what do you do about this truly bad idea?

I ask that you please contact the Mayor, 266-4611, and your alderperson, 266-4071, and oppose their preposterous recycling tax. And, alert your friends and family in Madison. 

The Mayor’s email is mayor@cityofmadison.com — or use this form to contact the Mayor: Contact the Mayor | Mayor’s Office, City of Madison, Wisconsin 

You can use this website to contact your Alderperson Contact – Common Council – City of Madison, Wisconsin  Or, if you want to look up who your Alder is and send a direct email address, use this link:  Find Alder by Address – Common Council – City of Madison, Wisconsin

If Barney Fife’s idea of nipping does not work to remove this proposal we might ponder what Lyndon Baines Johnson would recommend as a political tool. He was a rancher…..

And so it goes.

Inflation Not Issue With Democrats’ Job And Revenue Generating Proposals

The news has lately been filled with stories about price increases from gasoline to beef. But just as many stories have been reported that airlines are selling tickets galore and sales are percolating at stores. This morning the lead story above the fold in The Wall Street Journal was titled Shoppers Increase Spending, Despite Inflation.

U.S. consumers withstood rising inflation to power a burst of shopping ahead of the holiday season, with big retailers reporting higher sales and expectations for a solid finish to the year.

Sales at U.S. retail stores, online sellers, and restaurants rose in October by a seasonally adjusted 1.7% from the previous month, the Commerce Department said.

While it is possible to track the reasons for inflation since the pandemic, the supply chain disruptions, and the unemployment numbers or as it has also been termed the “mass resignations’, it must be noted why we must not throw away the chance to advance our society with policies that have been long sought. We need to understand that these proposed initiatives are not inflation-inducing.

When it comes to the Build Back Better legislation some partisans who desire to undermine President Biden rather than listen to the strong support from the public, as polls show, have used the fear of inflation as their rhetorical tool. But the facts and logic are not on their side.

This week at the signing of the massive and much-needed infrastructure bill Republican Senator Rob Portman spoke words that did not make as much news coverage as they warranted. His message was clear. Investing in jobs and revenue-generating ideas is a path towards a strong US economy.

“It represents a long-term investment in our nation’s hard infrastructure assets that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and make us more efficient, more productive and more competitive against other countries like China. Importantly, economists agree that by investing over time in hard assets, it adds to the supply side of the economy, and will be counter-inflationary at a time of rising inflation. And it does all of this without raising taxes on the American economy as we are coming out of the pandemic. In contrast, the partisan tax and spend Build Back Better plan will increase inflation through massive stimulus spending and hurt the economy through massive tax increases.

While it is easy to locate the latest screed from the likes of GOP Senators Ted Cruz or Ron Johnson it obviously makes far more sense to listen to the words of economists and learned individuals. Such as Mark Zandi who for years has been read and heard in this nation about economic matters. He is now the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.

The hair-on-fire discourse over high inflation is understandable, but it’s overdone. … My inflation outlook could be Pollyannish, but only if inflation expectations — what investors, businesses, consumers and economists think inflation will be in the future — rise. If there is a widespread view that inflation will remain high, workers will demand higher wages to compensate and businesses will ante up, believing they can pass along their higher costs to their customers. This vicious wage-price spiral was behind the persistently high inflation we suffered 30 years ago. But there is no evidence that this is happening today.

All of this refutes the notion that the government spending and tax breaks to support the economy through the pandemic, including the American Rescue Plan this past March, are somehow behind the higher inflation. These factors certainly gave a boost to demand last spring, but that faded when the Delta variant gained momentum this fall. There is also no good way to connect the dots between the Build Back Better agenda, which is currently being debated in Congress, and higher inflation. The legislation provides support for public infrastructure and various social programs, and longer term, it is designed to lift the economy’s growth potential, which will ease inflationary pressures.

The fact is that inflation fears are being used by Republicans to confuse a certain segment of the nation and undermine the sitting president. They are not interested in, or understanding of the popular support for housing programs, climate-change policies, and a plethora of other matters contained in the Build Back Better legislation.

Fear may get them a headline now, but the nation is deserving of progress that history will long record.

And so it goes.

Republican States Greatly Benefiting From Biden’s Child Tax Credits

If you build it they will come.

Even if the building is done with one team doing all the work, while the other team seeks to block all efforts.

That applies to conservative Republicans who worked feverishly to block congressional efforts to construct the child tax credit.

But once the heavy lifting was done, and the measure signed into law by President Biden, we find that the states in the nation which are most benefiting from it are those which voted for Donald Trump in 2020.

The tax credit can be summed up with one word.

Popular.

As part of a COVID relief package that Congress passed in March, qualified families began receiving monthly payments from the federal government in July ranging from $300 for children under age 6 and $250 for children under age 18.

The current expanded tax credit has proven a policy favorite across the land. Regardless of party.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll found the credit supported by 59% of U.S. adults including 75% of people who identified themselves as Democrats and 41% of people who identified as Republicans.

The top 10 states by average monthly child tax credit payments in August — all from the West and Midwest — were: Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, with monthly payments ranging from $515 to $456 in August.  Again, all states that voted for Trump.

The conservative state of Utah, which is also the nation’s youngest state home to large families, averaged the highest monthly payment of all at $515.

With the broad support for the policy there is now a very concerted effort underway to extend the credit which is part of the President’s $3.5 trillion spending package.

So while the GOP will not give Biden credit for darn near anything they will gladly reap the cash rewards for the hard work his administration has done to create stronger families in the nation.

The reason Democrats can make the claim for strengthening the foundation of families is based on data. Researchers at Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy are estimating that Biden’s new credit will cut childhood poverty by 45%. The IRS has estimated that 39 million families and 65 million children will benefit under this plan.

In the world of blue-collar politics, we call this a middle-class tax cut.

One that even Republicans have embraced.

And so it goes.

Donald Trump Begins Journey Of Meeting Justice, She Is Dressed As Tax Agent

At the end of each year, we see the almost routine cartoon of Father Time being ushered out as a baby New Year takes over. I thought of that type of drawing this morning as I searched for an old editorial cartoon showing Donald Trump meeting Lady Justice. The cartoon I found is most relevant today as Donald Trump and his business, have finally started to be brought into the light of law and justice.

It is but the first leg of a long and legally intense drama. But it is a very much-needed event for our nation. It is a vital function of a working democracy that those who are at the highest rungs of elected office not be seen or thinking they are above the laws. You know, the ones that the rest of us follow.

The charges are being brought by the Manhattan District Attorney against the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg, whom Trump once praised for doing, as is often quoted, “whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line” are most riveting. The Trump Organization is officially facing criminal charges. The organization, a company helmed by the Trump family that contains a host of business entities, including numerous luxury real estate properties, is charged with scheme conspiracy, grand larceny, falsifying business records, and criminal tax fraud.

Grifting with all their might for decades.

As such we now have the first, and certainly not the last, of a sweeping legal inquiry into the business practices that for decades have been openly talked about for their corrupt underpinnings.

Last night James and I were talking as we took a late evening drive about a local company offering $500 if one signed up to be a co-worker. He had read about this matter online earlier in the day. But, of course, taxes and other amounts are removed as if the money was an actual paycheck. The amount of money left as an incentive was one that, I assume, many would not consider a deal.

So when it comes to viewing the Trump tax shams now meeting Lady Justice, where vast amounts of goods and services were provided with no tax paid, it then underscores the vast difference between the ‘little guy’ trying to make ends meet in Dane County, and the corruption now making banner headlines.

I can see the Trump base, not understanding the intricacies of tax law, and simply dismissing the entire matter as political. Of course, they feel this way, as Dear Leader is never wrong in their undereducated eyes.

But the rest of us know history.

It was tax evasion that finally, once and for all, caught up Al Capone. Lady Justice comes in many guises, and this time for Trump and Company she dresses as the taxman.

This blog, throughout the 2016 presidential election, made clear that it was essential nominees for the White House release their taxes. The reason was obvious, as was made clear for decades of such practice by those politicians who had nothing to hide. Now, due to Trump, we are seeing why such disclosures are most prudent and warranted.

The fraud that we knew was at the heart of Trump’s refusal to be forthcoming will now be headlines that the entire nation will come to understand.

And so it goes.

Federal Tax Increases Are Justified In 2021, History Tells Us Why

With the death of Walter Mondale last week we were reminded of the honest, and required dialogue, that our leaders should have with the citizenry. In 1984, the Democratic presidential nominee told the nation that if he were elected there would be a tax increase. While some saw that honesty with the nation as a political blunder I saw it as needed candor about the necessity for more tax revenues.

Over the decades I have continuously rejected the notion that there is never to be any new tax hikes or ways to reap revenue. That is just a most absurd and untenable position from which to govern.  For far too long there has been a line of rhetoric that cutting government is the only way to move either the nation (or a state) forward.  We have seen the limits, and pure folly of such a political argument when following policy needs on the national level.

Since becoming an adult I have felt it not only an obligation but a responsibility to pay taxes. I have argued that the nation should raise taxes to pay for our wars, and also advocated on the local level for a wheel tax. Though I have been disheartened Congress has not in recent years adhered to the actions from the war of 1812, and up through the Vietnam War where special taxes were levied, I was pleased when Madison enacted a wheel tax.

This spring the nation is embarking upon another major discussion about new taxes that are needed to pay for national programming. The rhetorical volume is sure to increase following President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress and his proposal for trillions in spending for infrastructure needs and family support bills.

Biden laid out his plans repeatedly during the long presidential campaign. At the center of the revenue plan is an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, implement a minimum corporate tax, nearly double taxes on investment gains for the wealthiest, and the tweaking of inheritance laws.

The announced plans for corporate taxes would cover the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan dealing with transport, broadband, drinking water, ports, and electricity grids. Capital gains and other proposals will create the needed revenue streams for family infrastructure which deals with early education and home care. The estimated price tag for that portion of the larger plan could reach over $1.5 trillion. 

We could cut and paste the same tired rhetoric from conservative Republicans when it comes to government spending or the needs of the citizens. Saying no and doing even less is simply what they have come to stand for over the years. That same lingo is what they will offer going forward. All the GOP can offer is claiming that any new government action is socialism. The current batch of angry white males in the party could never even pretend at fostering policy ideas akin to how former congressman Jack Kemp once labored! 

For the rest of us, however, there is history that we can look back on as a way to gauge our path forward.

Aggressive federal power has always been an active ingredient for progress. President George Washington had an industrial policy so to build and enhance a much-needed manufacturing economy. No prudish Federalist, but rather a determined nationalist.

Sidney Blumenthal writes in his volumes about the strong feelings Abraham Lincoln had for federal dollars on behalf of infrastructure projects, and a deep understanding as to why increased spending on public education was a necessity.

The list could go on and on about the leaders who knew the power of government, and the wise use of harnessing it for the greater good. As one reads about President Teddy Roosevelt or later President Franklin Roosevelt the battles were not about big government or small. That is due to the way they acted as leaders. As with the others through our nation’s narrative, they grasped the fact that government is the means of getting big things done for the people that matter.

The conservatives will snark endlessly this year about taxes but the rest of us have history on our side.

On April 8, 1789–three weeks before George Washington will be sworn into office for the first time–James Madison stood up in the House of Representatives and introduced a tax bill.  It was the first bill ever introduced under the new form of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution. 

The very first order of business in the very first session of Congress was a bill to make sure that the economy was placed in a more sure-footed path, and that manufacturing would be promoted.  The means to do that were duties, and tariffs on a whole range of products from rum, beer, molasses, sugar cocoa, and coffee. 

There was a clear sense of the need for revenue, and while there was a lively debate about the taxes, the bill passed.

That must be the same frame of mind and outcome in 2021.

And so it goes.

Texans Need Civics Books Following Winter Storm

A minister, who is a friend, wrote on Facebook today her desire to assist Texans with something more than prayers. We responded that perhaps sending civics books with chapters highlighted about the way revenues from locals are used to pay for infrastructure might be appropriate. It was not meant to be flippant but rather a truism that ranks with teaching a person to fish being better than just supplying seafood for free.

Watching the news from Texas over the past few days has been most educational for the nation as it plainly and directly underscores what happens when people will not pay taxes for needed programs aimed at their own long-term well-being. When it comes to their electrical grid and its lack of weatherization–a problem that was highlighted following the 2011 ‘storm of a lifetime’ it proves that the allure of lower taxes and less regulation prevailed over reasoned thinking. Now another ‘storm of a lifetime’ has struck, which first, further proves the science of climate change.

But secondly, that Texans are needing all sorts of federal ‘socialism’.

Let me state that it is absolutely the duty of the federal government to aid the state and to alleviate the plight of our fellow citizens. I do not subscribe to the conservative’s Darwinian view that we first need to cut programs to find the dollars for doing what is the social compact we have with one another in the nation. I am a liberal Democrat, and even though Texans have not demonstrated intelligence with their infrastructure needs, does not mean my party loses our sense of national priorities when it comes to natural disasters.

Having said that, however, does not require me to lessen my point about the lack of civics-education among too many Texans. What we are reading in the papers and watching unfold on television showcases what can only be termed their flagrant disregard and disdain for reason and logic. The regulations that are required for weatherization, and the tax dollars that are then required for the projects make sense so that when Mother Nature comes a’-howling a crisis can be averted. While not each weather event can be totally prepared for, this winter storm in Texas could have been managed had political leadership been undertaken many years ago.

It is frustrating to see so many Texans seriously impacted because Republican officials have turned every attempt at needed regulations into some red-tape politically-inspired nightmare. If the knuckle-draggers in Texas thought prevention was costly…let this Northerner alert them they are to be stunned at the costs associated with fixing broken pipes. Think how much more cost-efficient it would have been to have insulated when the sun was shining and it was warm. And everything was not sopping wet!

I was the Administrative Assistant for the Joint Committee for Review Of Administrative Rules in the Wisconsin statehouse for two years. We undertook a number of code reviews for homes and businesses. While I can attest to the dialogue about ‘red-tape’, I can also speak to the logic of mandated standards and construction guidelines. They offer the best long-term protection for the dollars spent. I was proud to be a small part of making our state government work for the needs of the citizens.

So when I say civics books need to be sent to Texans following this winter storm I am not being smug or snarky. I am being frank about the real problem at hand. The problem is plain to see. You have to want to make the government work for the people for it to then, well, actually work.

Conservatives just need to be educated to that fact.

And so it goes.