Let's do the real math.
Dear Scott Walker,
Thanks for the E-update and the confirmation that you do acknowledge I exist! While I know your note went out to everyone who "contacted Governor Walker's office directly at some point during 2011," I accept it as the long-awaited recognition that you do, indeed, have my email address. It's a start!
I wanted to let you know, though, that there are a number of errors (or "lies," depending on how you look at it) in your message. I know you're in California right now (gotta raise those recall election funds somewhere, eh?) and probably have no idea what the message "you" sent even says, but I think you're going to want to send out a revised version very soon.
First of all, you claim in your letter that you have lowered the school portion of the property tax levy by one percent across the state, putting $228 million "back in the pockets" of Wisconsin taxpayers. You claim this "amounts to $69 for every man, woman and child in the state" just for the school portion of the tax bill. What kind of fuzzy math is this? And since when do "every man, woman and child" pay taxes? Given the current population of Wisconsin, a $228 million difference would amount to about $40 per person, not $69. The 2010 census puts the population of Wisconsin at 5,686,986. Multiply this by $69 and you get $392,402,034. As my Dad asked, where's the other $164,402,034? In your pocket?
This question is rhetorical, of course, because these figures -- like my question -- are a joke. It just doesn't add up. According to data from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, Wisconsin taxpayers actually saw an increase in the tax rate ($9.84 this year, compared to $9.76 per $1,000 of equalized property value) despite an overall decrease in the tax levy. In 2010-11, the school district levies statewide totaled $4,692,935,468. In 2011-12, the total is $4,645,873,099. That's a 0.98% decrease, true: a difference of $47,062,369. Where you got the figure of $228 million is a mystery only the person who actually writes your emails can solve.
So let's do the real math. If we divide that $47,062,369 by the 5,686,986 Wisconsin men, women and children whose pockets you care so much about, each of them saves $8.28 compared to last year. Not the $69 you claim. (Not that even $69 a year would do anything to compensate for how much less I now take home in my paycheck, incidentally).
Eight dollars and twenty-eight cents. That's my "savings." That's how much I get for going along with the union busting, the demoralizing and demonizing of our hard-working teachers, the $1.6 billion in cuts to public education (on top of the fortunately minuscule reductions in local levy spending). Eight dollars and twenty-eight cents. For my family of four, that's about $33. All of which and more, I'm sure, will be spent in the additional contributions I'll be expected to make next year to cover the things my kids' school already can't afford, like tissues and markers and notebooks and rulers and cleaning supplies and backpacks for low-income kids and dry erase markers and the little notes I have to write to teachers to remind them that not everyone really thinks they're worthless. I expect all of this to add up to significantly more than $33.
In your letter, you claim that you received a gift card from a Fox Valley family in the amount of their alleged "savings" on their property tax bill and that you plan to donate such gift cards to "charity." As my own taxes actually went up (and significantly so) this year, I will not be sending you a gift card. In fact, I think the fact that you're asking us to thank you at all for these expensive "reforms" is an insult to every taxpayer in Wisconsin, and every child in our public schools.
Thank you for the New Year's wishes. I have high hopes for 2012 and wish you all the best, too, in finding a new job.
Heather DuBois Bourenane is a Sun Prairie resident. She publishes Monologues of Dissent, and the original version of this letter was published here. "Citizen" is an opinion series that presents the views of the author. If you would like to reply, please comment or consider submitting an op-ed in response.