Governor says Wisconsin residents need assistance now; Republicans vow to oppose his proposal.
Gov. Tony Evers released a plan Thursday to use part of a state budget surplus that is $2.9 billion more than expected to give each Wisconsin resident a $150 tax rebate and put $750 million toward education, but Republicans in the Legislature rejected his proposal.
Evers said tax rebates would help Wisconsinites rebound from economic challenges they have faced during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. His proposal came two days after the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released new projections showing the state will collect $2.9 billion more than anticipated through the middle of next year. The total projected surplus is $3.8 billion, and the also has an additional $2.1 billion in a “rainy day” fund.
The governor’s proposal also would provide $131.8 million in tax relief intended to reduce child care and caregiving costs, an initiative he said would support the state’s workforce and reduce employment barriers.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done over the last three years to provide hundreds of dollars in relief to Wisconsinites through withholding tax table changes and our tax cuts—including one of the largest income tax cuts in state history—but I also know folks are still being stretched thin due to everyday costs going up,” Evers said in a press release.
“My plan puts even more money in people’s pockets to help make ends meet, bolsters our workforce by helping families with the costs of childcare and caregiving, and makes robust investments in our kids and our schools without raising property taxes,” the governor said. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—Wisconsinites can’t wait for relief from rising prices.”
Republican lawmakers said they plan to wait on a tax cut package until after the November election. Evers is seeking re-election. Former Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Kevin Nicholson, who announced his gubernatorial candidacy Thursday, are seeking to run against Evers.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said Republicans won’t back Evers’ plan. The governor can access federal COVID-19 relief funding to pay for his plans, LeMahieu noted.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and the co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) all spoke against Evers’ proposal.
“If [Evers] was serious about wanting to help families and reduce the tax burden on hard-working Wisconsinites, he wouldn’t have proposed raising taxes by over $1 billion in both of his budgets,” Born said in a tweet.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party said state residents need the extra money now to help them continue to pay for rising costs of living. A press release the party issued Thursday said “Republicans have threatened to hold taxpayer dollars hostage for the next year, in the hopes that someone from their political party will be in charge by then.”
Wisconsin public school advocates spoke on behalf of Evers’ proposal, saying it would help provide much-needed financial assistance to address students’ most urgent needs. Districts require help paying for such programs as mental health, English language learners, and school meals, they said. “We can afford to meet our kids’ most basic needs, and our kids can’t afford for us not to,” Heather DuBois Bourenane, executive director of Wisconsin Public Education Network, said in a news release. “Wisconsin can’t wait for another budget cycle to revisit this crisis, and our kids can’t wait another year to get the resources in their classrooms they need now.”