Republican legislators said last week they support Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposals but are looking for ways to prevent a structural deficit, lower taxes further and prevent hiring more state employees.
Bob Delaporte, spokesperson for the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee’s co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Falls, said Darling supports parts of Walker’s budget but has a few concerns about some of his proposals.
“We want to make sure that the structural deficit is covered, that we do not raise taxes and that we don’t end up with a real deficit down the road,” Delaporte said. “We’re also concerned about the bonding level listed in the bill. There is a lot we don’t know yet and have to find out.”
According to his budget proposal, Walker wants an $824 million increase in funding for roads, some of which would be covered by bonding — where the state sells bonds to cover for expenses.
Delaporte said new revenue streams may open up in the next few months due to an improving economy that will allow for less bonding. He added JFC members are currently studying the budget line-by-line.
As part of his budget, Walker called for a $343 million income tax cut. According to a budget brief, a family with two workers, each earning $40,000, could receive a tax decrease of $100 by the next year for their household.
While he said their review of the tax code is “budget neutral,” JFC member Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, said simplifying the tax code and making changes to tax credits could lower taxes further than Walker’s proposal.
“No matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, a simple tax code is good for economic growth,” Kooyenga said.
Kooyenga said many tax credits and deductions are designed to drive behaviors. He said he and other legislators are studying whether or not these programs work and what they can do to simplify them. He added many tax credits are inherently unfair or are not being used.
He said the state could use the additional revenue from getting rid of credits that are not used to lower taxes for a certain bracket. He said he would like to reduce the length of income tax filings in half, from four pages to two pages.
“If you’re a farmer and you want to farm, you don’t want to be a bureaucrat,” Kooyenga said. “You don’t want to finish working for the day and sit down and fill out bureaucratic paperwork. You want to spend some time with the family or have a beer.”
Justin Cleveland, spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said Vos generally supports most of Walker’s proposals, but is reviewing them to make sure the plan is fiscally responsible.
In his budget, Walker recommended an increase of 710 full-time employees for the state. Cleveland said some of the hires are federally-mandated, such as those needed to enforce the federal health care law.
In a statement Thursday, Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, recommended eliminating the proposed staffing increases at the Department of Revenue.
“I respect Governor Walker’s effort to craft a budget that would appeal to many citizens,” Nass said in the statement. “I am confident that the Legislature will make significant improvements that will further protect the interests of Wisconsin taxpayers.”