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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

 5:34 PM 

Assembly approves guv's tax plan

The Assembly voted 62-37 for the guv's plan to use almost half of the state's projected $1 billion surplus to cut property and income taxes.

Two democrats, Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, and Rep. Stephen Smith, D-Shell Lake, joined Republicans in voting for the bill.

The bill calls for cutting property taxes by pumping $406 million into the tech college levy and reducing income taxes $98.6 million by dropping the lowest bracket to 4 percent from 4.4. percent. Separately, the guv moved to change withholding tables to provide $322.6 million that taxpayers would otherwise have had to wait for in their annual refunds. 

The Assembly also added some smaller tax tweaks to the bill, including one exempting local government and non-profits from paying the sales tax on building projects.

But the bill's prospects were uncertain with continued concerns among some Senate Republicans over the $807 million structural deficit Walker's proposal would create. The bill is expected to next go to the Joint Finance Committee, where a possible compromise could be reached.

Dems portrayed the projected surplus as speculative, arguing the state should save more of it, pay off existing debts and use the bulk of it to provide property tax relief through the first dollar credit. They also denounced the changes to the alternative minimum tax as a break for the wealthy rather than helping those who most need the relief. The cost of the AMT changes is some $37.5 million in this biennium before rising in future years.

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, accused Walker of an election-year gimmick meant to make a name for himself on the national stage. In doing so, he said, Republicans were intent on turning a surplus into a long-term deficit.

“If you ask me, that is irresponsible,” Jorgensen said. “That’s not how businesses run, that’s not how families budget.”

Republicans countered Dems raised taxes when they were in charge, forcing the GOP to make the tough decisions needed to balance the state budget. That work laid the groundwork for the tax cuts Republicans have already approved and are now proposing. They rejected Dem concerns about structural deficits, arguing the string of positive revenue growth reports will continue thanks for their work.

They also charged their counterparts wanted to spend the money rather than give taxpayers relief.

“We are guilty. We are guilty. We believe it’s their money, not our money, Mr. Speaker, and it’s up to them to decide what to do with it, not us here in Madison,” said Joint Finance Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette.


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