A joint resolution that would have created a statewide Taxpayer Protection Amendment failed in the state Senate Thursday by a vote of 11-21, an act area legislators consider a victory for the UW System.
Rep. Rob Kreibich, R-Eau Claire, said he wasn’t surprised by the Senate’s vote, but said he was surprised by the lack of support by his fellow Republicans in the Assembly.
“That would have been an irresistible temptation to cut state support and raise tuition and fees,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that it would have accelerated a trend that we’ve seen that puts more of the burden on students and their families.”
The amendment, which would have placed revenue caps on many sources of state income but would have excluded tuition and fees, would have led to what Kreibich called “dire consequences,” including the closure of campuses, enrollment reductions and a diminished quality of education.
“I think the only way we can change that is to change the economic conditions,” said state Sen. Ron Brown, R-Eau Claire, who also voted against the amendment. “Unless we can do that, I think we’re going to see greater numbers (of students) leaving the area.”
“No more taxes means less services,” Brown said. “If you limit yourself as far as dollars you intend to spend, you wouldn’t be able to put money into other programs.”
Kreibich was one of the nine Republicans to vote against the Assembly’s final version of the amendment, which passed April 28 by a vote of 50-48. He said recent resolutions from UW-Eau Claire Student Senate and the Board of Regents in opposition to the amendment played a significant role in
“I’m glad they took an interest and went on the record,” he said of the resolutions. “I have 10,000 constituents that are students, and I agreed with the sentiments of those resolutions.”
Kreibich said the Assembly brought as many as six versions of the amendment to the table, two of which made it to a final vote.
The last revisions came about five hours before the final vote, which is something, he said, that didn’t help the situation.
“We had to be extremely cautious when changing the constitution, and doing it at 4:30 a.m. was not a good scenario,” he said, adding that an amendment to the constitution would be very difficult to change.
Brown agreed, saying that by making a change to the constitution, it would be harder for legislators to adjust the revenue caps without having to go to the voters.
“It would not give us enough flexibility,” Brown said, adding that as a representative democracy, he thinks it should be the responsibility of the Legislature to deal with such fiscal issues. “How many referendum questions would you see when you go to the poll?”
Instead, he said he would like to see the similar language put into the form of a statute so it would be easier to change if it doesn’t work out.
“If it is folded too tightly or if we want to make any changes, we have the flexibility to do it,” he said.
Kreibich said he hopes the Legislature will look at different options when dealing with this issue in the future.
“I would hope that we would work on areas where there is more common ground and be more productive,” he said. “If we can attract quality employers that pay good salaries and employ a lot of people, that will accomplish the same thing as this because we will see more tax revenue.”