Democrats wasted little time in jumping on comments from a member of Gov.-elect Scott Walker's transition team about a possible sales tax hike to reduce other state and local taxes.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the new governor says Walker intends to cut spending not raise taxes.
Former state budget director Rick Chandler on Monday offered some thoughts on how Wisconsin might reform its tax structure to stimulate the economy and create a more robust jobs climate.
Chandler recommended shifting some of the tax burden away from the income and property taxes by hiking the state sales tax, which at 5 percent is among the lowest in nation.
But Dems were quick to launch an attack on Walker and the Republicans, labeling the idea a new tax on working families to reduce taxes on the wealthy.
"When they're not worrying about banning contraception or demonizing gay people, it looks like the Republicans are finding time to form a tax policy that passes the burden to working families as a payoff to their corporate cronies," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Tuesday.
State Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) also got in the action, saying he was "stunned and flabbergasted" at any talk of a sales tax hike.
"The more we learn about what the incoming administration means by ‘turnaround' the worse it looks for Wisconsin's small businesses, middle class and working families, children and seniors," he said.
Talk of a higher state sales tax isn't new.
Chandler has noted previously that Wisconsin is often considered a "tax hell" because it relies more heavily on income and property taxes than other states.
Chandler, who served as revenue secretary and budget director in the Thompson and McCallum administrations, made his recent comments during a breakfast gathering hosted by the conservative-leaning Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
"The idea here is to shift the burden to taxes that are less hated," Chandler told the group that included Legislators, business leaders and public school officials.
Chandler -- who emphasized he was speaking for himself and not Walker - said that although Wisconsin has made some progress on the tax front over the past two decades it's still considered a high tax state. He says that reputation, fair or not, is sending business owners, recent college graduates and high-wealth individuals to other states.
Chandler says shifting some of the burden from income and property tax could result in 10,000 new jobs, more than $1.4 billion in new investment and a $410 increase in per capita income. Those figures were based on an analysis by the Beacon Hill Institute.
Politically, it might prove difficult given the anger of voters. but Chandler raises some good points. At least with a sales tax, you get a choice to pay it by buying less stuff.
Not so with income and property taxes.