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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Governor vetoes property-tax freeze

After quickly reviewing a property-tax freeze proposed by the state Legislature, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle responded with a swift veto Friday, identifying the plan as irresponsible and detrimental to the quality of public education.

The freeze on property-tax bills, a three-year initiative, was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature several weeks ago but was not delivered to Doyle’s desk until Friday so the governor could have ample time to consider the measure. But as soon as Doyle returned from his trade mission in Mexico Friday night, he vetoed the bill.

“[I will] get to the tax freeze, but first I want to make sure schools are adequately funded,” Doyle said Friday in a teleconference from Mexico. “I have demonstrated a way [to have this] and [have] sound educational funding for our state.”

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According to a release from the governor, the property-tax freeze could potentially cut school spending by as much as $716 million.

“The Republican plan doesn’t guarantee that schools will be adequately funded,” Doyle spokesperson Melanie Fonder said. “[Doyle’s plan] emphasizes investing in our schools and making sure local government officials have the resources they need.”

Mike Prentiss, spokesman of Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, countered the claim that the bill cuts funding to local schools.

“Simply put, we freeze property taxes and the decision of spending is left in the budget,” Prentiss said. “School funding is part of the whole budget process … we don’t try to separate it out.”

Todd Allbaugh, communications director of Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, agreed that the Legislature’s main focus is not on property taxes within the context of the budget but rather is concentrated on simply getting the freeze passed and later “[coming] back and look[ing] at issues like education and health care.”

“We’re providing school funding, we just haven’t decided how much yet,” Prentiss said.

Additionally, Allbaugh stressed that a property-tax freeze is primarily concerned with property taxes, not education.

But Fonder argued that the only responsible way to have a freeze is to meet the governor’s promise of two-thirds funding to education.

While Democrats fault the GOP’s plan as deficient to school funding, Republicans point to several flaws within the governor’s property-tax freeze. Many allege Doyle’s freeze is not even a freeze at all.

“Gov. Doyle’s plan is not an honest attempt to freeze taxes. He’s only spending more money. Our plan freezes taxes, period,” Prentiss said.

Sen. Alan Lasee, R-DePere, who voiced his concern regarding the source of the additional money necessary to the governor’s plan, said Doyle is interested in taking money from other important funds, like transportation. Lasee said abstracting money from “any place and every place” is “not a good idea.”

However, Fonder said the governor’s plan is in fact a freeze because it “puts strict limits on how much local entities can tax.”

Republicans further assert the benefits of their plan, claiming it saves taxpayers more money and is longer lasting.

Republicans may send the bill to Doyle again in hopes he will sign it into the state budget, which must be approved by June 30.

–Rachel Patzer contributed to this article

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