When Scott Walker released the agenda for his “Special Session” to create jobs in Wisconsin on Wednesday, September 28; there was a piece of Legislation near the bottom of the page which received little attention, but will have lasting effects on the Department of Revenue – and huge rewards for Banks and Corporations. Since the bill had yet to be completed, much less introduced, it was merely listed in the release as a “LRB” number – in this case LRB 2769. As the Bill had not yet been released, it was unavailable for public view, until now. Described as a bill for “Department of Revenue Procedural Changes,” in reality LRB 11-30441, and LRB 2769 will hinder the ability of The Wisconsin Department of Revenue to audit, assess penalties, or adopt Administrative Rules to enforce its own tax collection activities, and repeal current transparency statutes. The primary supporter of this bill (as it was in 2005, when a similar bill passed the Assembly, but failed in the senate) is Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
An email sent by GOP Senator Rich Zipperer offers the bill to Legislators for co-sponsorship prior to its introduction:
Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 2:59 PM
To: *Legislative Everyone
Subject: Co-Sponsorship of LRB 11-30441 & LRB 2769: DOR Procedural Changes
TO: Legislative Colleagues
FROM: Rep. Pat Strachota and Senator Rich Zipperer
RE: Co-Sponsorship of LRB 11-30441 & LRB 2769: Department of Revenue Procedural Changes
DATE: September 30, 2011
Deadline: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
A key component to a vibrant economy is tax certainty. Wisconsin’s tax laws need to be updated in order to create more predictability for businesses and taxpayers. This legislation was drafted in part in response to concerns about practices of the Department of Revenue (DOR) uncovered in a 2006 survey of Wisconsin businesses and tax professionals. It is similar to Assembly Bill 968 of the 2005-2006 legislation session and is supported by DOR. This bill makes numerous changes to the procedural statutes governing the actions of the Department of Revenue (DOR) in providing advice, conducting audits, imposing penalties, issuing refunds, promulgating administrative rules and litigating tax disputes. If you would like to co-sponsor this legislation please contact Rep. Strachota (264-8486) Rep.Strachota@legis.wi.gov or Sen. Zipperer (266-9174) Sen.Zipperer@legis.wi.gov.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau Analysis Summary shows clearly that if this bill passes, the Department of Revenue will face greater obstacles to conducting audits, assessing penalties, and collecting taxes owed from previous years – a gift to Banks and Corporations looking to avoid such audits and actions by the State. It will also make it virtually impossible for any review of these records to be conducted – a significant rollback in tax transparency in Wisconsin. It appeared odd that Senator Zipperer states that this bill “…is supported by the DOR.” Until one considers the Secretary of The Department of Revenue is Richard Chandler.
Richard Chandler previously served as Revenue Secretary from 2001-2003 (The McCallum years). After his 2 year stint as DOR Secretary, Chandler started his own Consulting firm in Madison, Chandler Consulting, LLC. As President of Chandler Consulting, LLC, he spent the next 7 years (2003-2010) as a Registered Lobbyist in Wisconsin. Chandler represented high-profile clients – Wisconsin Merchants Federation, Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Energy, and Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families (a private charter school advocacy group). As late as 2010, Chandler has advocated in other states (Georgia presentation 2010) for private charter school creation and funding. Chandler is a staunch advocate of Corporate tax “reform” and reducing the tax burden on Corporations as “job creators, ” as evidenced in a paper he wrote for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the conservative think-tank based in Delafield. It should be pointed out that Chandler’s “study” is not peer-reviewed (as is typical for WPRI “studies”), and his references are from other conservative think tanks (such as The Pew Center), Legislative Fiscal Bureau data (for tax information) or newspaper op-ed pages (New York Times). It is no wonder that Chandler would support a bill which would give virtual “tax freedom” to Corporations against audits, penalties, and collections on back taxes to be “job creating,” while closing the door on transparency.
With the appointment of Richard Chandler to Secretary of the Department of Revenue, Scott Walker has a corporate-sympathizer in place who will allow his Department to be an open door for tax dodging. As this bill is not yet formally introduced, no Fiscal Impact Study has been released, but expect it to show a significant loss in revenue for the state. We can certainly expect the net job gain of this bill to be zero – as it is a proven fact that tax breaks for corporations have never created a single job. Walker’s “Special Session” promises more of the same – continued tax breaks and benefits for the Corporate Elite, and special favors expanding the influence of the Corporate Anarchists.
Badger Democracy will update as this bill is analyzed by the Legislative Counsel, and is scheduled for Committee hearings.