October 26, 2014

Senate passes tax cut package

The state Senate has passed Governor Scott Walker’s $504 million dollar tax cut package. “This is a great day for taxpayers,” said Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. “It’s a great day for Wisconsin.”

The package, which was modified in the Joint Finance Committee after being passed by the state Assembly in February, includes $131 in property tax relief for a median-priced home, and an income tax cut averaging $46.

La Crosse Democrat Jennifer Schilling charged the income tax cuts favor the wealthy. “So if you are a family of four, we’ll see a tax reduction of $58. Meanwhile a select group of 30,000 individuals will get a $1500 tax break, or more,” said Schilling.

The harsh winter and its impact on streets and roads in Wisconsin were a recurring theme with Democrats, who argued that at least some of a projected state budget surplus of more than $900 million ought to be diverted to more immediate needs.

“You’ve got water mains bursting, snow removal budgets and potholes,” said Kenosha Senator Bob Wirch. “What are we giving local governments to take care of those potholes?” asked Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay. “I see cars swallowed up in potholes, and we’re not doing anything about that,” added Dane County Senator Jon Erpenbach.

Another $100 million would be placed into the state’s general fund, instead of the original idea of expanding the government’s rainy day fund, and Democrats offered an amendment that would have placed additional money in the rainy day fund. “That’s a great idea, but people tell me they want that back,” said GOP Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills. “This rainy day fund is already many times higher than the previous all-time high for the rainy day fund,” said West Bend Republican Senator Glenn Grothman.

The revised package also includes $38 million in new spending cuts to off-set a possible structural deficit to start the next state budget period. Democrats were joined by GOP Senator Dale Schultz in voting against the measure, which passed Tuesday on a 17-15 vote. Senators also unanimously approved Governor Walker’s plan for $35 million in job training grants.