By Matt Pommer
Gov.-elect Scott Walker plans a quixotic drive to persuade former Wisconsinites to return from their retirements in Florida and Arizona.
Surely the new governor will remind these senior citizens of the high quality and availability of medical care. He can point to the reputation of Wisconsin’s hospitals and medical clinics, including the Marshfield Clinic, the Gundersen Clinic, Theda Clark and the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.
Other good medical facilities are on the list, but these are the prominent names the ex-Badgers will recall. Medical care concerns grow as we age.
Wisconsin, like many other states, has exempted Social Security from the state income tax. Talk also floated in the just-completed gubernatorial campaign about exempting retirement income from the state income tax.
Walker may talk like that when he makes his pitch in Arizona and Florida, but he faces a several billion dollar gap in the state budget. These old and wise seniors may correctly perceive that tax exemption may be several years away — if it ever comes.
Wisconsin memories and Badger state enthusiasm will be high this fall with the success of the Green Bay Packers and the University of Wisconsin football teams. But you can cheer for those teams no matter where you live.
While Walker may be cheerful in this eloquence about Wisconsin, some elements are playing against a rush to leave retirement states. Perhaps topping the list is the terrible real estate markets in Arizona and Florida. The Internet is full of offerings to sell and rent top-flight condos in those states. Those states are among the leaders in the number of foreclosures.
There are two sets of retired folks: those who have permanently moved to southern states and those who maintain two homes, living in Wisconsin for part of each year.
These folks have been dubbed “snowbirds” because they fly like migrant fowl.
The snowbirds can now escape the Wisconsin income tax altogether if they live in the sun states for six months and one day, making that their “permanent” residence. They get their licenses in those states and set up bank accounts there. Walker would like to have that money in Wisconsin banks. He thinks the returnees could help support Wisconsin charities and churches, helping everyone in the state.
State law prohibits them from voting in Wisconsin elections. A new Republican legislative effort may help enforce that law. In the works is a bill to require a photo ID to get a ballot. A Florida driver’s license would be a red flag.
Walker should put his efforts on hold until spring. Persuading folks in February to move from Arizona to Wisconsin may be a tough sell.
Matt Pommer worked as a reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.