Gov. Tony Evers issued his first veto on Wednesday, rejecting a Republican proposal to fund a middle-class tax cut by tapping into the state's budget reserves.
Evers said he objects to passing a major fiscal policy item outside of the state budget process, which is set to begin next week when he introduces his two-year spending plan to the Legislature. He also objected to the bill's reliance on the state's budget reserves.
The Republican plan would draw $495.6 million from the reserves over the next few years, according to a preliminary analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. As of June 30, the state's primary spending account had a positive balance of $588.5 million, according to the LFB. That surplus is projected to grow to $691.5 million by the end of this fiscal year, based on cash accounting.
Evers campaigned on offering a 10 percent income tax cut to middle-income earners, but his proposal — which would also tap into budget reserves — would be funded in part by capping an existing income tax credit for manufacturers. Republicans have said any measure that increases the tax burden on manufacturers or farmers won't earn their support.
Evers said he was "troubled and disappointed" the proposal was passed without bipartisan "support and cooperation."
"Going forward in the budget process, I remain committed to working together to balance the many priorities that must be addressed in the upcoming budget, from schools and roads to tax relief and health care," Evers said. "As I have said, I support providing meaningful middle-class tax relief for hardworking Wisconsin individuals and families, and my budget priorities will reflect those intentions."
Republican lawmakers were critical of the veto, arguing the state's finances are sound enough to pay for the cut without adjusting any existing credits.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he "expected more from someone whose first speech included a promise to work together."
"Unfortunately, Governor Evers is starting to show his true colors," Vos said in a statement. "Only a Madison liberal would believe the only way to cut taxes is to raise taxes on others. He’s simply playing politics with middle class pocketbooks."
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Senate Republicans will "redouble our efforts and fight to include a middle-class tax cut in the upcoming state budget," but not one that scales back the state's manufacturing and agriculture tax credit.