One-on-One with Gov. Tony Evers—His $5 Billion Surplus Plan and How Much Money It Could Save Wisconsinites

By Christina Lorey

August 29, 2022

From the lowest earners to families, veterans, seniors, and their caregivers–if you live in the state, there’s something in it for you.

We sat down for an interview with Gov. Tony Evers last Thursday. Encouraged by the response we’ve been getting to the new “UPLifting” section of our daily newsletter, we presented the first-term governor with a small challenge: We are only talking about him. No finger pointing at opponents or the legislators who gave up legislating until 2023 back in March. No blaming the party that begins with the letter “R,” or even calling them out by name.

Just the governor, his plan, and what it would mean for you. Here are the takeaways from our conversation.

The Surplus

Background: In January, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated Wisconsin would have a $3.8 billion surplus at the end of fiscal year 2023. By July, that estimate ballooned to more than $5 billion, an unprecedented number that does not include Wisconsin’s stabilization or “rainy day” fund that contains an additional $1.7 billion.

Gov. Evers, on the surplus’ size… “It caught me off guard, too. The Department of Revenue does this internally and they keep it to themselves. I may have gotten it one day before the rest of the world.”

On how he found out… “It’s a phone call. We hear from the staff members at the Department of Revenue. Suddenly, the end of the month is here, and it’s a big one.”

On what it indicates about the state of the state… “It’s an indication of the success of Wisconsinites being resilient during this pandemic.”

The Plan

Background: Last week, Evers released his plan to spend some of that surplus to help Wisconsin residents rebound after two years of uncertainty and ongoing inflation. If approved, the plan would provide $600 million in tax relief.  

Gov. Evers, on how his plan will help lowest income earners… “We plan to do a tax cut of 10% for people making less than $100,000.”

On how it will help drivers… “There’s another part of this plan– the mandatory Minimum Markup law, which is a special obligation for gas stations to mark up their prices. Our plan gets rid of that. The gasoline that’s pretty expensive here in Wisconsin would be reduced by 18 to 30 cents.”

On how it will help Wisconsin families… “Childhood tax rebate. If someone has children, they have an opportunity when they fill out their taxes this next time to count essentially 100% of what they get off on their federal side. It’s a pretty big number—probably between $600 and $1,200, depending on the number of children.”

On how it will help caregivers… “Whoever that caretaker is will be able to get a break on their taxes when they claim that. It will be a little bit smaller than the childhood tax credit, but if you have any expenses while caregiving, you can claim those and get a rebate on that, too.”

On how it will help seniors… “There’s a really important tax in Wisconsin that nobody knows about frankly, called the Homestead Credit. It’s primarily for seniors who don’t have a great income stream. You get a significant tax credit. People who have no income, if they just take the time to fill out the form, they can get a relatively large–it’s usually more than a $1,000 break. Our plan indexes that to inflation and will automatically add an entire group of people who can now claim the Homestead Credit.”

On how it will help veterans… “There’s a special property tax credit that veterans who are disabled or surviving spouses of veterans are able to claim. It’s a significant credit, and we are looking to make it available to more veterans. Our plan puts an additional $16 million in that fund, which will impact about 80,000 people in the state. I’d estimate it would give each of them about $2,000.”

The Response and The Reality

Background: Evers released a similar, but larger, tax plan five months ago. It was rejected by the Republican-controlled state Legislature. This plan would also need their approval.

Gov. Evers, on how he devised the plan: “These are targeted tax breaks. We are trying to make sure we reach people who need them the most.”

On how this plan would differ if it wasn’t an election year… “It wouldn’t be any different. And it wasn’t different last January either. That’s just the point. Once we know what our available funds are, we’re going to continue doing this.”

On how quickly this can happen… “I’d love to get it done right now. It can be done in a day, even if legislators came back with a different plan.”

On when it will most likely happen… “It’s likely not going to happen until the election is over. At the worst, it’ll be in my next budget, which would be released sometime early next year.”

On how he expects Wisconsinites to react… “Once they’re in, it’s very unlikely to disappear because it’s going to be immensely popular and people are going to expect it going forward.”

On what Wisconsinites can—and should—do… “I just encourage people to vote. A lot of people are spending their efforts suppressing the vote. My goal is to get as many people voting as possible. I also think $5 billion is a lot of money, and we need to get it back into people’s pockets.”


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.



Local News

Related Stories
Share This