The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has approved changes to Governor Scott Walker’s tax cut proposal, which are expected to give the bill the support it needs to pass in the state Senate.
The Republican-controlled committee voted along party lines Wednesday to adopt an amendment that keep the $504 million income and property tax cuts intact, while diverting about $118 million from the state’s rainy day fund to help reduce a structural deficit. The compromise also requires state agencies to lapse about $38 million in funding and drops a sales tax exemption for construction companies that was added in the state Assembly.
Republicans touted the plan as a sign that their economic policies adopted over the last three years have helped change the course of Wisconsin, returning nearly $2 billion to taxpayers and lowering taxes. Democrats were critical of the proposal though, arguing that it favors the state’s highest earners and avoids options that would benefit the middle class and low income residents more. State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) called it a “missed opportunity” and “more of the same.” Democrats have argued that money from a projected surplus of almost $1 billion should be used to restore education funding and other cuts made in recent budgets.
The deal is the result of weeks of talks between Senate Republicans, after some members raised concerns about the possible impact of the tax cuts on the state’s structural deficit. GOP leaders say the agreement will give them the votes needed to pass the bill. The Assembly already voted to approve the tax cuts, and will have to sign off on the agreement if it’s approved by the Senate early next month.
Also on Wednesday, the JFC voted to move ahead with a proposed $35 million package from Governor Walker that will help enhance job training programs. The money would help eliminate waiting lists at technical colleges for those pursuing careers in high demand fields and also help train high school students for those jobs. Members also advanced a loan program that would help some families hurt by the propane shortage receive state assistance to pay for the fuel.