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Wisconsin Republicans tout plan to slash income taxes by $250 million

Wisconsin Republicans tout plan to slash income taxes by $250 million

Ballweg tax cuts

Rep. Joan Ballweg (center) joins fellow GOP lawmakers in announcing a Republican tax cut plan in the state Capitol on Friday. 

Republicans rolled out a plan to cut income taxes by $250 million, implement a $45 million personal property tax cut for businesses and direct $100 million toward paying down debt. 

But the proposal to spend the state's surplus dollars, announced Friday, doesn’t feature any of the K-12 spending Gov. Tony Evers sought in his rival plan. That includes his call to direct $130 million in property tax relief through the state's equalization aid formula and restore the state's commitment to funding two-thirds of public education costs. 

Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, who acknowledged there haven't been "direct discussions" with the governor about the new proposal, credited Republicans for working with Evers to bolster school spending in the current budget. 

"The next phase for school support is appropriately going to be done in the budget when we do have additional money," Ballweg said. 

An Evers spokeswoman said the governor's plan sought to ensure Republicans would "deliver on their promise to get to two-thirds funding for our schools" -- raising questions about the GOP proposal's future.  

“Unfortunately, Assembly Republicans made it clear today that they would rather break their promise to the people of our state than work together on funding our schools and reducing property taxes in Wisconsin,” Britt Cudaback said. 

Both Evers’ and Republicans’ plans rely on Wisconsin’s projected surplus funding, which recent revenue projections showed would amount to $452 million more in the state’s general fund to end the biennium than previously anticipated. 

Ballweg — joined by fellow Republican Reps. Barbara Dittrich and Jon Plumer — unveiled the GOP proposal in Madison at the state Capitol, an idea that needs to be fast-tracked to get through both chambers as the legislative session draws to a close. 

Under the plan, the individual income tax cut, through a change in the standard deduction, would mean the average filer would see a $106 reduction, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. An anticipated 64.1% of taxpayers would see a reduction, should it be enacted, next spring.

The cut would be targeted to those with incomes below $144,669 for married joint filers and $120,360 for single and head-of-household filers. LFB noted the measure would cost around $248 million in the next fiscal year, and $224 million annually going forward. 

Meanwhile, the personal property tax exemption would apply to machinery, tools and patterns from businesses, a reduction of $44.7 million a year.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who previously advocated for a property tax cut that individuals would see after homeowners received bills in December showing potentially the largest property tax increase in a decade, said in a statement he “fully support(s) the direction we’re headed with this plan.” 

“Since late last year, I’ve wanted to see a tax cut for hard-working families,” the Juneau Republican said. “Wisconsin is in great fiscal shape and we should prioritize giving money back to taxpayers.”

The legislation would leave a balance of $956 million in the state's rainy day fund. 

Ballweg said the plan is likely to be on the Assembly floor on Thursday, the chamber’s final session day. It’ll also need to get through the Legislature’s powerful budget committee early next week. The panel is expected to meet Monday.

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Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at WisPolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.

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