As Republicans celebrated Tuesday’s approval of their proposed property-tax freeze in the State Senate, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle characterized the plan as a political game and plans to veto the bill as early as today.
“Wisconsin’s citizens shouldn’t have to choose between quality schools and property-tax relief,” Doyle said in a release.
The governor’s office claimed the Republican plan does not guarantee any new funding for education and could possibly reduce state spending on public schooling.
The Republican property-tax plan could reduce the overall amount of money spent on Wisconsin public schools as much as $716 million over the next two years through the reduction of pupil revenue caps, according to the release.
Rep. Frank Lasse, R-Green Bay, disputes the claim that the freeze would result in reductions of state money put toward public education.
“This proposal does not do anything to revenue caps,” Lance Burri, an aide to Lasse, said. “It simply limits the amount of property-tax levy — it limits growth in property taxes.”
The Republican plan does not have any direct correlation with the governor’s controversial revenue caps. However, according to Dan Leistiknow, a spokesperson for Doyle, Republicans are only telling half the truth.
“Public schools get their funding from state aid and property taxes,” Leistiknow said. “Each school district has to abide by a revenue cap. The more money the state [gives] them, the less [the school district] can charge in property taxes.”
Leistiknow explained the semantics of Doyle’s education agenda, saying a school district is only allowed to tax for the amount of the revenue cap not covered by state funds earmarked for learning. The state of Wisconsin currently has a commitment to provide two-thirds of the funding for public schools.
By putting $850 million dollars of additional funds into education, Doyle hopes to ensure schools will no longer have the room to raise property taxes. In many cases, schools would end up reducing property taxes, Leistiknow said.
“What [Republicans] want to do is put a freeze on [property taxes] now … but they aren’t saying if they’re going to provide any new money from the state or not,” Leistiknow said. “The only way they can achieve [this] … is by reducing the revenue cap.”
The overall effect of the revenue-cap reduction will be a $716 million cut in education, according to Leistiknow.
“That is basically how their plan works … put a freeze on schools now and we’ll tell you later if we’re going give them any money or not,” he said.
Rep. Lasse’s office ridiculed Doyle’s plan as one that has been tried in the past, but was unsuccessful.
“It’s kind of nonsensical to me, actually … he simply brought down property taxes through greater state spending, which he was going to pay for [by] raiding other funds,” Burri said. “The Republican plan, on the other hand, actually freezes taxes and recognizes we have a responsibility to fund education.”
Two-thirds of the majority in the State Senate and Assembly is required to overturn Doyle’s planned veto of the Republican bill.
— Rachel Patzer contributed to this article