After fast-tracking the bill through the Legislature, Gov. Scott Walker signed the $100 million property tax relief bill into law Sunday, just over one week after the plan was introduced.
The measure was also publicly announced only three days after Democrat Mary Burke announced she would challenge Walker in the 2013 governor’s race, timing which sparked criticism from state Democrats.
The bill, which will give $40 million back to schools statewide for the 2013-14 fiscal year and $60 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year, passed on a 82-12 vote in the Assembly Tuesday and 25-8 in the Senate Thursday.
Walker said in a statement he was pleased to see legislators from both sides of the aisle come together “to pass meaningful property tax relief.”
“Today, Governor Walker signaled once again how Republican leadership has helped put the power back into the hands of hardworking taxpayers,” Jesse Dougherty, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “A $100 million cut in property taxes means an additional $100 million for Wisconsinites to invest in our economy.”
By giving funding back to schools, property taxes will go down by $13 per year for the average Wisconsin homeowner, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
However, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, homeowners in 82 school districts will not see any relief under the bill.
Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, said in a statement the “difficult decisions” made by Walker and Republican legislators has helped the state turn around since Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s term.
During Doyle’s term, “out of control” spending created a $360 billion deficit; a deficit which has changed to a nearly $760 million surplus during Walker’s term, Sanfelippo said.
During the Assembly session Thursday, Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said voting “no” on the bill would be “damaging” to Democrats as they go to their home districts.
“[The Democrats are] all about politics,” Vos said. “What we are trying to do today is actually about the people. It’s actually about tax relief.”
All Republicans voted in favor of the bill along with 25 Democrats, including Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha; Assembly Democratic Caucus Leader Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton; and Assembly Caucus Secretary Janis Ringhand, D-Cross Plains.
Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Madison, voted against the bill, saying the Wisconsin people deserve more than what the bill offers.
“What your stunt does is pick winners and losers,” Pasch said. “Some will get a quarter, some will get nothing. As we know, this is not a tax break, this is a political stunt that was rushed together so the governor could respond to the fact that he has an opponent.”
Democratic legislators proposed an alternative to Walker’s bill that would have transfered $100 million into a “rainy day fund” rather than school funding, increased income eligibility for those seeking state medical assistance and cut property taxes. Republicans rejected the measure.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said Republicans were choosing their party ideology rather than “common-sense” reform for all Wisconsin residents.
“There are two irrefutable facts: One, Republican legislators and Gov. Walker raised property taxes in their budget,” Barca said in a statement. “Two, today Republicans voted against a plan that would actually cut property taxes for all property taxpayers, instead of passing a plan that simply offers a lower tax hike for some taxpayers.”