MILWAUKEE — State Rep. John Murtha recently made statements to a newspaper reporter that he believes he owed state taxes in 2007 – but he didn’t have any additional details to offer or know the amount paid. Given that he has paid no state income taxes during the last five years, Rep. Murtha’s inability to recall whether he owes taxes in 2007 raises questions about his candor and credibility.
An article in Monday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Baldwin Republican paid no state income taxes in 2004, 2005 and 2006. When asked whether he paid in 2007, as no records were available at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, “Murtha said he believed he owed taxes for 2007, but he didn’t know the amount.”
DOR records show that dating back to 2002, Murtha has not had to pay state income taxes, which would make a requirement to pay taxes in 2007 a substantial change for Murtha and something most taxpayers are likely to notice.
“How can Rep. Murtha not recall if he owes taxes this year or not,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “One would think he would know if after five years he suddenly had to pay state incomes taxes again. If he did want to clear up this question, it would appear to be a simple task in that he could have opened his checkbook or called his accountant.”
In 2006, Murtha touted his support for the disastrous TABOR bill, which would slash school funds, police officers, fire fighters and municipal road services, to the RiverTown Newspaper Group. RiverTown reported that, “As a representative, Murtha says his number one priority would be to defend the taxpayer.”
[RiverTown Newspaper Group, 11/1/06, http://www.rivertowns.net/vote2006/story110106-murtha.asp]
According to his Statement of Economic Interests, Murtha owns Murtha Sanitation, a Baldwin hauling business that provides roll off sanitation boxes to businesses and individuals, as well as Murtha Properties. As required by the Government Accountability Board, the Statement of Economic Interests lists dozens of customers, clients and tenants who did at least $1,000 worth of business with Murtha. When asked why he didn’t owe state taxes for the time period cited by the Journal Sentinel, Murtha said, “We didn’t make any money.”
As a legislator, Murtha is paid $47,413 annually. This includes $88 per day in per diem, which is not subject to tax. In 2007, Murtha reported $6,952 in per diem payment, a total of 79 days working at the Capitol. Ross said he hoped the completed 2007 records would show Murtha was truthful in his statements to the newspaper reporter.
“It’s always important for our leaders to be candid with state residents,” said Ross. “Otherwise, it erodes the credibility of our government.”