Escape to Wisconsin!

Escape to Wisconsin! Once, that phrase was a beloved Wisconsin bumper sticker, looking to goad tourists into the Badger State.

Feel-good, scaredy-cat “progressivism” did away with that, though: what were we doing, after all, inviting escaped prisoners and other lawbreakers to lose themselves in our state!

But today, the phrase has re-emerged. Not as a sop to tourists, but as a pointed reminder that Wisconsin bleeds Republican red. No longer a slogan to make nanny-liberals cringe, but a fiscal conservative rallying cry.

Hey, Illinois! Escape to Wisconsin!

The Taxprof explains:

Jubilation has broken out in the Midwest–or at least in Wisconsin and Indiana, now that Democrats in neighboring Illinois have rushed their tax increase into law.

Late Tuesday night, Democrats in the Illinois house and senate rammed through Governor Pat Quinn’s 67% hike in the state income tax and a nearly 50% jump in the state corporate tax. The increase will add $1,400 to the average family’s tax bill, and we doubt it will help job creation in a state that has lost 374,000 jobs since 2008.

New Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker immediately rolled out a press release inviting Illinois businesses to decamp to the Badger State, contrasting his agenda to reduce taxes and welcome business with the Illinois increase. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels added: “We already had an edge on Illinois in terms of the cost of doing business, and this is going to make it significantly wider.”

Illinois’ top marginal income tax rate becomes 5%, and its corporate income tax rate becomes 9.5% – third-highest in the nation.

Betcha Wisconsin winters don’t look so bad now, huh?

A caveat: Illinois’ individual income tax rates are still lower than Wisconsin’s. Answer: big whoop. Look at that corporate tax rate; add in sales taxes of at least 6.75% – up to 9.75% in Chicago and 11.5% in other parts of Cook County.

Not to mention: Illinois had a $8.75 billion vendor’s bill it was struggling to pay, and a $4 billion liability in its pension fund, and an overall $15 billion budget deficit. Something tells me they’re not done giving their taxpayers bad news.

Another caveat: the tax-hike plan includes a 2% per year cap on spending increases. Answer: riiiight. That won’t even cover historical increases in Medicaid. A big-city-Democrat-controlled government is going to make cuts to Medicaid?

Sure they are.

And, finally, the biggest caveat of all: to some businesses, this won’t matter.

Take two similar businesses, providing similar goods, serving similar customers. If taxes for both rise at the same rate, neither suffers a competitive disadvantage. Even a radically high tax rate at least leaves the playing field level. They all have the same expenses.

And some businesses will always be in demand, no matter their expenses. Gas stations; grocery stores; banks. Plumbers and electricians. Anywhere people live in America, they need those. So those services will continue to exist, even after taxes rise.

Of course, even those businesses still depend on people’s money, and a lot of those people work for companies which are more susceptible to national and global competition. If too many of those companies are forced to relocate, then that’s fewer local jobs, and fewer local paychecks. Even the most basic services wither and die if nobody can afford them.

That still doesn’t mean a company will instantly pack up and move north of the border. That’s an expensive proposition, and…who knows? By the time all the arrangements are made — property found purchased, boxes packed, trucks loaded — maybe Wisconsin will have turned back toward feel-good liberal “progressivism.”

Businesses don’t just want lower taxes: they want consistency. They want some confidence that things won’t change too radically against them in the next five, ten, twenty years. Especially if they’re looking to relocate.

So where would you prefer to bet your company’s next ten years? Your next twenty? In a state where fiscal conservatism (the Cheese-O-P!) is moving trendlines near-irrevocably rightward? Or a state where big-city liberalism will always hold sway?

Oversimplifying? Maybe. But betcha Illinois companies will be slapping those bumper stickers on their own back bumpers soon. And betcha they’ll be showing those bumpers to Springfield.

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