Thursday, July 06, 2006

In the news: Wisconsin tax check-off for MS

Next year, Wisconsin tax forms will have a new "check-off" box allowing taxpayers to contribute $1 to support multiple sclerosis patients. The money will help modify homes and cars, buy wheelchairs and other equipment, and pay for transportation and respite care. Snip from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
'All this is a very unfortunate trend,' said Todd Berry, president of the non-profit Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and a former state Department of Revenue official. 'It has occurred because full-time professional legislators at the state and federal levels view the tax system as an easy - and almost impossible to oppose - way to give constituents, supporters and interest groups things they want,' Berry said. 'There is virtually no downside risk politically. Taxpayers don't realize that the reason their Wisconsin income tax booklet and form is at least 50 percent longer than it need be, and that they spend hundreds of dollars going to tax practitioners out of fear of the paperwork, is because of all the ornaments added to what has become a Christmas tree of a tax system.'

Berry also said 'virtually no one' participates in the checkoffs. In 2004, only 7% of taxpayers gave $1 to the public campaign fund, and no other cause was supported by more than 1% of all taxpayers, records show. Berry also predicted that the trend will continue. 'Once you get started in this, it becomes harder and harder to rein it in,' he said. 'Everyone has a pet cause.'Link.

As a person with MS, let me say this: Thanks, but no thanks. I agree with Todd Berry's comments about how this is really dumb from a tax policy perspective, and would add that if we really wanted to help people with MS we'd adequately fund Medicaid and figure out a way to ensure that everybody has access to medical care from the whole hospital, not just the emergency room.

I'm not sure if the National MS Society or the Wisconsin chapter took a position on this one, but I'm fascinated by the whole "disease lobby" phenomenon. Advocacy by one Society or Foundation has resulted in little patches of favorable legal treatment for sickies of one stripe or another. Along these lines, I'm interested in the origins of the Medicare provisions that ensure a shorter eligibility waiting period for people with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

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