The state’s Joint Finance Committee passed an amended version of Gov. Scott Walker’s “Blueprint for Prosperity” Wednesday, although the committee kept the bulk of Walker’s plan — roughly $400 million in property tax cuts and about $100 million in income tax cuts.
The compromise between the Senate and the Assembly, sparked by some Republican senators’ concerns with the structural deficit, makes $38 million in budget lapses, or cuts, to state agencies. It also puts the $117 million originally intended for the state’s rainy day fund into the state’s general account to lower the state’s structural deficit heading into the next biennial budget.
The moves would lower the state’s structural deficit to less than $660 million, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, lower than the $807 million structural deficit that the bureau had projected under Walker’s original plan.
Walker’s $400 million in property tax cuts would save the owner of a median-value home $131, according to the LFB. The second bill the finance committee approved grants $35 million to workforce training and collaboration efforts between school districts and technical colleges.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said returning a large chunk of the state’s projected $1 billion surplus through property and income tax relief was a major achievement for Republicans.
“I think it’s remarkable because we’ve had some very difficult years in the Legislature where we just haven’t had a whole lot of funds and we’ve had a lot of debt, and so to turn that around this session so much that we can provide property tax relief and income tax relief is something we can be amazingly proud of,” she said.
Democrats, who voted against the proposal, said the proposal was unfair and slanted towards the wealthy.
“I’d suggest that the governor certainly misled us…this is a very unfair tax cut that favors the rich,” Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, said.
Rep. Cory Mason, D-Kenosha, echoed Wirch’s concerns about the tax cut and discussed the Democrats’ desire for tax cuts for lower tax brackets.
Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said state programs and agencies would be hurt under the plan. She said despite the state’s large surplus, there has not been a push to help alleviate the large spending cuts that were made to state programs and agencies in past years.
Democratic concerns about the tax cuts led to strong responses from Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, and JFC co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.
“If you’re opposed to this tax cut, I’m willing to wager you’ll be opposed to any tax cut,” Knudson said.
Darling said the Democrats were being “sour” about giving taxpayers their money back and she did not know why they were not cheering for the state.
“Real people get that it’s their money, that the state is doing a heck of a lot better, and we’re giving their money back to them,” Darling said.
The JFC-approved bill now heads to the Senate, which will take up the bill March 4, and the Assembly must approve the same bill before it goes to Walker’s desk.