Testimony on AB 1 to Assembly Jobs, Economy and Mining Committee, Regarding Governor Walker’s Proposed State Income and Property Tax Cuts
Following is the text of my public testimony for the Wisconsin Assembly’s Jobs, Economy and Mining Committee on Assembly Bill 1. AB 1 is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed $406 million in property tax cuts and $98 million in state income tax cuts, which would both be returned to Wisconsin’s tax payers with passage of the bill.
I, Michael Neuman, attended the public hearing, held in room 417 of the State Capitol building, Madison, on February 5, 2014. The text of my testimony published below is intended to accompany the three documents I delivered for the committee at the hearing. This testimony also supports my statement of opposition to AB 1, which I submitted immediately prior to the hearing.
A. “Financial Incentives to Reduce Total Driving, Flying and Home Energy Use”, by Michael T. Neuman, May 2000 (25 pgs);
B. Letter “To My Elected Governmental Officials RE: “PROTECTION FROM GLOBAL WARMING”, by Michael T. Neuman, Madison, Wisconsin, May 26, 2000 (1 pg. – cover letter attached to , above);
C. “EXECUTIVE SUMMARY, Conserve, NOW!, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Other Environmental Costs by Offering Financial Incentives that Reward Less Driving, Flying and Home Energy Use”, by Michael T. Neuman, August 1, 2001 (6 pgs.).
TEXT OF TESTIMONY
Good afternoon. My name is Michael Neuman. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this bill, which would turn over hundreds of millions of state dollars to state taxpayers. The reason I oppose this action is because it simply gives the money to Wisconsin taxpayers rather than them having to earn the money back. A far better approach to returning this money to Wisconsin residents would be to create and fund a state program to offer the money back in the form of “positive financial incentives” which encourage state residents to DRIVE LESS ANNUAL MILES than the average miles driven (by individual or family) in the state; to avoid flying due to the massive volumes of jet fuel burned in flying; and to encourage household consume less fossil fuel energy that is derived from fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, compared to the average amount of energy used over the previous year by similar sized household.
The primary aim of this program, called “Conserve, NOW, Conserve Now ex sum is to substantially reduce Wisconsin’s annual quantities of greenhouse gases emitted from Wisconsin’s transportation and energy production sectors, which account for the two largest quantities of anthropogenic (human caused) greenhouse gas tons emitted on an annual basis.
Few people question that global warming is occurring anymore, and just as few still question if we humans could be causing it, despite that nine-eight percent of global warming scientists surveyed now say it is, that we are primarily responsible for the warming that has occurred so far. The reason is our burning of way too much fossil fuels for energy, particularly around the beginning of the 19th century. That is when human began relying on motor vehicle driving, flying by airplane, shipping, and the use of electricity in a big way, and these are all continuing to grow, worldwide.
Some cities, counties and states have already begun to plan for the changes in the climate that lies ahead, and the predicted potential for more dangerous extreme weather continues to be realized around the planet, and the potential for even worse weather extremes grows as the planet warms, the arctic ice shrinks, the permafrost regions thaw, glaciers recede, oceans levels rise, the destruction of the world’s carbon dioxide using tropical forests continue, while more people throughout world burn more and more fossil fuels, adding to the accumulation of more and more millions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere that surrounds the planet.
Many communities have already begun planning their infrastructure to accommodate “new normals” with global warming built into the assumptions. Dane County and Madison in Wisconsin both have begun that planning process. So has New York City and a number of other cities, counties and states in the U.S. The state of California has been also been engaged heavily in mitigation by actively attempting to reduce their greenhouse gases and rely more on solar and wind energy and mass transit.
Changes in Wisconsin’s climate are also inevitable, with heavier early winter and fall rains which tend to cause more flooding and hotter, more drought-like condition in summer (as in 2012). Our current and projected future greenhouse gas emissions under a “business as usual” economy and way of life are unsustainable. Current levels levels of fossil fuel burning have already led to more instability in the climate which leads to more dangerous, less hospitable environmental conditions for humans as well as animal life. The financial and human burdens and potential for loss of life will grow and become more threatening unless we invest in major mitigation that results in meaningful worldwide reductions of greenhouse gases and investments are made to adapt to the changes in climate today, rather than waiting for more weeks, months and years to pass, as has been done since 2000 when I first proposed “Concern NOW”, or “Positive Financial Incentives: An Environmentally Just Approach for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions” (blog post #7).
Despite that fact that 98% of the world’s scientists who have studied global warming conclude that it is, that the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is already documented, and that global warming and extreme weather events have already has been occurring (Super Typhoon Haiyan; Super Storm Sandy, …) as well as disruptive changes to the climate (Southern California drought; Australia’s long heatwaves) have already been registered throughout the planet due to warming which threatens to worsen, further warming the earth’s atmosphere and added ocean warming and “acidification” (A certain percentage of the carbon dioxide that is emitted to the atmosphere gets assimilated by the oceans, making the oceans’ waters more acidic.) The combination of the warmer and more acidic ocean water is already destroying coral reef in many areas and depleting many other ocean species in various parts of the world.
The proposed financial incentives program, also called “Conserve NOW”, would not only lead to Wisconsin’s reduction of annual greenhouse gas emissions from the state, it would also lower the needs for capacity expansion of Wisconsin’s highway, airport, and utility infrastructure expansions, which would save billions of transportation and energy production dollars, in addition to reducing other pollutant emissions from fewer motor vehicles operating on the system and the avoidance of otherwise unavoidable impacts of infrastructure expansion construction and maintenance.
Because of the growing threats now being realized throughout the world as a result of global warming, I am proposing the financial incentives for driving less, or not at all, not flying, and using less than average fossil fuel derived energy in the home be TRIPLE the incentives proposed in my 2000 proposal, that the federal government fund two-thirds of the annual cost of the program, and that the state of Wisconsin fund the remaining third of the porogram, which I now call “Conserve NOW X3”.
We can ill afford to continue with “business as usual” as regards fossil fuel burning if we want to be assured that today’s children and children of the future living on this planet will not have to live with a growing fear of evermore probable and calamitous natural disasters. Instead of a maximum total of $7,600 for those who don’t drive, fly or use fossil fuel derived energy in their home, a maximum of $22,800 (3 times the previous maximum) could be earned by those who do the same (the amount get progressively less for those who do).
The $406 million the governor of Wisconsin proposes to return to state property taxpayers would be an ample amount to begin offering these incentives as not everyone who enrolls in this financial incentives program will earn the maximum amount.
For the federal share of this program, a good amount could come from the savings in avoiding sinking more federal funds in continuing to expand the state highway system in Wisconsin. Other funds could come from not continuing to exempt the airline industry from paying jet fuel taxes, and from having the airline industry fund federal aviation control employees (rather than the current system of having the U.S. taxpayers pay the salaries of 15,000 FAA flight controllers). Finally, an increase in federal gasoline and diesel taxes should also be considered to fund financial incentives for the American public to drive less. Until this type of program is enacted, Americans should consider voluntarily driving and flying less, and conserving on energy derived from burning fossil fuels, in addition to taking other steps they might consider that will help maintain and preserve the earth as a safe and hospitable place to live.