August 2, 2015

Vos and Walker administration at odds over further tax cuts

Speaker Robin Vos

Speaker Robin Vos

Don’t bank on bigger tax cuts from the state this year. With Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal including a modest property tax – about five dollars on the median priced home each of the next two years – Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch was saying this week that more tax cuts will be a priority, if revenue estimates come in higher than anticipated this spring.

“If money is coming in greater than we had anticipated, that should be going back to the people who are earning it,” Huebsch said during a WisPolitics luncheon in Madison “Some people will say…let’s put more money in the university. Others will say K-12 education. There will be a diverse area as to where to go.”

Huebsch’s statements appear to be at odds with how the Republican leader in the state Assembly views the situation.

“Unless we have some huge amount of new revenue that comes in over the course of the revenue estimates – a billion dollars or something like that – we’ve got fix transportation, we’ve got to figure out what to do with this reduction in the UW, and we’ve got to worry about K-12,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Thursday.

Vos (R-Rochester) said he’d like to focus this legislative session on increasing government efficiency, with an eye towards a “significant tax cut” in the next session.

DOA secretary says property tax cuts a priority

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch

If state revenues increase, a top aide to Governor Scott Walker says tax cuts would be a top priority.

The state will get new revenue estimates later this spring. If they come in higher than anticipated, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch says reducing the burden on taxpayers will be a goal of the governor. “If money is coming in greater than we anticipated, that should go back to the people who are producing it,” Huebsch told the crowd at a event in Madison this week.

Huebsch admits there will be other areas lawmakers may want to focus on. “Some people will say…let’s put more money in the university. Others will say K-12 education. There will be a diverse area as to where to go.” Despite that, he said the governor’s focus remains on getting money back to taxpayers, which can help spur additional economic growth.

Wisconsin checking for fraudulent tax returns

The state Department of Revenue is taking a closer look at nearly 60,000 tax returns, amid reports that other states have seen an uptick in fraudulent filings in the past week.

DOR spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis says there have been no cases of widespread fraud reported in Wisconsin. However, she says they want to be cautious in order to make sure refunds are going to the correct person.

Marquis says the review process involves ramping up an identity protection program that has been used previously to detect fraud. If your return is flagged, the agency will reach out with questions that will need to be answered before it can be processed. “It may mean that you’ll get asked to take a quiz, or you will receive a letter asking you to provide documentation.”

Marquis says the extra scrutiny could slow down the processing time for some returns, although electronic filing remains the fastest way to process refunds. The identity verification effort helped save taxpayers almost $50 million last year.

Walker’s transportation borrowing elicits bipartisan concerns

Verona Road project, Madison (WRN photo)

Verona Road project, Madison (WRN photo)

Governor Scott Walker’s plans to pay for the state’s transportation needs through increased borrowing are likely to face close scrutiny once lawmakers get down to the task of assessing the Republican governor’s proposed 2015-’17 state budget proposal. “There are going to be things that we think are great, and there are going to be things that we have deep concerns about as this budget goes forward,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington). “It’s important for everybody across Wisconsin to realize that while we are strong supporters of Governor Walker, this is his budget and we’ll have opportunity to shape it according to what we think the priorities of Wisconsin are, over the next few months.”

Walker’s budget proposal includes more than $1.5 billion dollars in bonding, mostly for transportation projects. “Our caucus has discussed it, and we have sincere concerns about relying so heavily on borrowing to fund transportation and infrastructure,” Vos said. “We want to see what the exact details of the proposal are as we move forward.

“For me, I would look towards a comprehensive approach, looking at reducing bonding, perhaps reforms in the Department of Transportation, and possibly finding some (revenue) increases,” said Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) who co-chairs the legislature’s budget writing Joint Committee on Finance. That last option hasn’t proved popular with Wisconsin voters. “In our Marquette Law School poll we’ve seen that people value transportation, but when we ask specifically ‘would you pay more gas tax or vehicle registration,’ those are not popular options,” noted Marquette University political scientist Charles Franklin.

Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) also serves on the Joint Finance Committee. “I think there’s more agreement than there normally is” Hintz said. “I’m pleased to hear my Republican colleagues that are concerned . . . to the level of bonding being proposed for transportation,” Hintz said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) shares the concerns of his Assembly colleagues. “It’s a great sign that the overall level of bonding is lower, but in relationship to infrastructure I think there’s some concerns about that.”

Baldwin reintroduces ‘Buffett Rule’ legislation

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is moving forward with a “Paying a Fair Share Act.” Also known as the Buffett Rule, it would require that multimillion dollar earners pay at least a 30 percent effective federal tax rate.

“For far too long our tax code has unfairly favored the wealthiest Americans, while middle class families in Wisconsin have struggled to get ahead,” said Baldwin, who along with Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse led a group of 16 Senators in introducing legislation this week.

The bill from Baldwin and her fellow Democrats is unlikely to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“If our new Republican majority truley believes in strengthening the economic security of our middle class, I hope they’ll join us in supporting this common sense idea that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll have a chance to get ahead,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said the legislation would produce some 70 billion dollars in revenue over the next ten years.