March 27, 2015

Walker says property tax cuts a priority

Gov. Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

Gov. Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

As his second term gets underway, the governor says cutting property taxes will once again be a priority for him.

Governor Scott Walker told members of the Wisconsin Bankers Association on Thursday that there are many taxes he would like to cut, including income and corporate taxes. However, with the state facing a possible $2.2 billion budget shortfall, he must focus on what will have the greatest impact. “As we prepare for this next budget, it’s going to be tough to cut all the taxes we’d like to cut all at once,” Walker said, “so our number one priority is property taxes.”

Walker noted that he met his goal of cutting the state’s tax burden during each of his first four years in office, and he’s hoping to do it again.

The governor will deliver his budget to the Legislature on February 3.

Wisconsin Republican leaders show caution over tax cuts

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (Photo:WRN )

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (Photo:WRN )

Republican leaders in the state Legislature are showing caution over the possible future of tax cuts this session.

With the state facing a possible $2.2 billion budget deficit, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says another round of income or property tax cuts could be a difficult sell with Republicans. “I wouldn’t say either one of them are off the table. But, what I would say is, in a very tight budget situation that we find ourselves in, it’s going to become more and more difficult to talk to members and says this is something that should be a priority.”

Fitzgerald blames the projected shortfall on what he calls a slowdown in economic activity currently facing the state. He says that’s going to make some members very cautious. Because of that, he says “it’s pretty difficult to forecast as we stand here today what may gain momentum” when talking about taxes.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has voiced similar concerns, adding that a small reduction is possible but he does not see any sizable cuts being made early on this session as lawmakers prepare to start work on the next state budget.

Walker does ‘Property Tax Relief Tour’

Governor Walker touts property tax relief. (PHOTO: Andrew Beckett)

Governor Walker touts property tax relief. (PHOTO: Andrew Beckett)

Governor Scott Walker touts lower property taxes during appearances in six major Wisconsin cities, including La Crosse, Eau Claire, Wausau, Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. “Overall for a typical homeowner in Wisconsin property taxes are down.”

Walker says the typical homeowner will pay $141 less for property taxes than they did in 2010. Also, he explains, if the previous trend had continued, that same homeowner would be paying $385 more for their annual bill. The governor says cumulative savings exceed $800 for a typical homeowner over four years.

Walker says the state is working hand-in-hand with local and county governments. “Because for working families, for senior citizens, for small business owners, and farmers in this state, property taxes are overwhelmingly one of the biggest burdens they have in their own lives and their own businesses to deal with. We want to make sure we continue to provide property tax relief over the next four years.”

Walker stresses his progress as he prepares to put together the next two-year state budget.

In October of last year, Walker signed a bill providing $100 million in property tax relief for Wisconsin residents.

Wisconsin was 12th highest taxed state in 2012

Learfield file photo

Learfield file photo

Wisconsin’s tax rate held relatively steady, while two of our neighbors saw dramatic increases, in recent years.

A study of census tax figures by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance shows that the state had the 12th highest tax burden in the country in 2012, at 11.4 percent of personal income.

Taxpayers Alliance president Todd Berry says the country was coming out of the recession in 2012. Minnesota and Illinois jumped passed the Badger State after increasing taxes in order to balance their budgets.

Berry says he’s not sure how Wisconsin’s tax cuts in 2013 and this year. will impact the state’s future rankings.


Audit reveals unemployment benefit overpayments, blocked calls

Learfield file photo

Learfield file photo

An audit shows the Department of Workforce Development blocked almost 1.7 million calls from people trying to claim unemployment benefits in the year that ended June 30.

The Legislative Audit Bureau report shows the vast majority of blocked calls were made between December 2013 and January 2014, when the phone system was overloaded. Senator Rob Cowles of Green Bay says it was a long-running problem.

“One year period 60 percent of the calls were blocked and another year it was almost 80 percent of the calls were blocked. Now, since February 2014, and up until this past June 14th, it’s down to 10 percent.”

The co-chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee says changes to the agency’s computer system helped.

The audit also found the DWD overpaid nearly $168 million in unemployment benefits during the three year period that ended in June.

“I’m very interested in tracking that overpayment and getting that money back. it’s not easy to get it back. So, it’s something that we have to continue to monitor.”

About 85 percent of the overpayments were the result of accidental errors. About 9.5  percent were likely fraud.