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Capitol sources: ‘Healthy’ tax cuts are on the way

MADISON — Conservative lawmakers are getting closer to releasing details on a “nice, healthy tax cut,” Capitol sources tell Empower Wisconsin.

The full scope of the plan has yet to be ironed out, as the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee continues the heavy lifting of rebuilding Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ mammoth $91 billion budget proposal, legislative aides say. Lawmakers are weighing both property tax and income tax reductions, with the budget-writing committee chopping Evers’ tax-and-spend budget to a much more reasonable operating level — at about a 2 percent increase.

Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Hazel Green), co-chair of the Finance Committee, has said ditching much of Evers’ budget proposal — including some 400 left-wing policy and non-fiscal proposals — would generate a record $2.5 billion state surplus by the end of the next biennial budget.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is expected to release updated revenue estimates next week.

“We have a boatload of state money that we can give back in tax cuts,” a Republican legislative source told Empower Wisconsin. “And there will be some aggressive giving back of tax money to our hard-working, beleaguered taxpayers.”

Capitol sources also say Evers and his liberal allies are, per usual, employing scare tactics. Wisconsin is looking at an unprecedented $2.4 billion in federal pandemic relief for the state’s schools. With such a huge influx of cash, the Legislature’s budget committee kept new state funding at $128 million. Educrats statewide, ignoring the federal windfall, have cried poverty.

In a kind of taxpayer hostage situation, Democrats warn that Wisconsin runs the risk of losing federal funding if the Legislature doesn’t pump more state money into education. Capitol sources say it’s a bluff, and a bad one at that. They say the Biden administration’s “maintenance of effort” assumptions were based on faulty estimates. They expected massive state budget shortfalls coming out of the pandemic. That didn’t happen.

One legislative source said taking away federal money from Wisconsin and its Democratic governor isn’t a good look for big spending Democrat President Joe Biden.

“There’s no way he is going to rip millions and millions of dollars out of the hands of schools,” the source said. “Everyone needs to quiet down on the alarmism.” Besides, the Capitol insider added, many schools don’t have the foggiest idea how they’re going to spend all the federal cash they’re receiving by the imposed spending deadlines.

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