By Matt Pommer
Republican U.S. senatorial candidate Terrence Wall says he favors a flat-rate federal income tax system to make it easier for Americans.
His comments came in a newspaper story in which the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put his net worth between $58 million and $130 million, including income last year between $2.3 million and $14.2 million.
Wall clearly knows something about the state and federal tax system.
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue reported Wall didn’t pay state personal income taxes in nine of the last 10 years. All of this was legal because the tax codes provide depreciation and incentives for commercial real estate developers such as Wall.
Backers say Wall eventually will have to pay taxes. Under a flat-tax system everyone pays the same percentage of their income to the government. It’s a boon to the rich if they get to pay the same rate as poor folks do.
What do Wall’s nine zeroes do for the political race? Do they make him a darling of the Tea Party folks who denounce taxation? Or does it raise concerns among Wisconsin taxpayers who lack the depreciation and incentives to avoid paying state income tax? It may be old-fashioned, but many voters still think every person should help pay for government services.
Wisconsin’s tradition of income taxes in the last half century has been for a graduated tax in which low-income residents pay smaller percentages on their taxable income than do wealthier people.
This is Wall’s first statewide election campaign. Earlier efforts to win a seat on the village board in an affluent Madison suburb failed. But village election races are not decided by million-dollar advertising campaigns.
Republicans are delighted with a well-to-do candidate who can personally finance an extensive media campaign. He already has entered the TV world with ads contending U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI., whom Wall seeks to replace, backed health care reform bills that would have the government take over health care.
The Associated Press reported the legislation does not do that. Wall’s camp retorts it could.
Also seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Feingold is businessman David Westlake. Earlier, Republican national figures had hoped to lure former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson to challenge Feingold in this year’s election.
Thompson has avoided ruling out any run for political office this year, allowing some to joke he is a political Brett Favre who can’t make up his mind about next season.
Friends say the idea of running for governor remains more attractive to Thompson. But a hot race is already under way for the GOP gubernatorial nod. Thompson’s day may have come and gone.
Matt Pommer worked as a reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.