Empower Wisconsin | Feb. 27, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — For the second time in a year, Gov. Tony Evers has vetoed a Republican tax cut bill.
And Republicans are vowing a veto override effort.
Claiming the GOP-led Legislature is playing politics with its nearly $400 million tax/debt relief package, Evers used the political backdrop of a Wauwatosa elementary school to veto the legislation. The measure, which would include $250 million in income tax cuts (much of it for middle-income earners), passed on a party-line vote in the Senate and with the support of just two Dems in the Assembly.
The package would be paid for by using a portion of the $620 million projected budget surplus.
Evers whined that Republicans didn’t consider his plan, which includes $250 million for K-12 education. The Democrat’s proposal would funnel $130 million in surplus taxpayer money into Wisconsin’s convoluted funding formula for public schools.
“Under my plan, everyone can win,” Evers said, before killing legislation that would have sent back more than $100 on average to eligible Wisconsin taxpayers and provided broader relief by raising the standard deduction. “I’m not the one that’s losing. Our kids are losing, our schools are losing …”
Such melodrama despite the fact that the past two biennial budgets have included record education spending topping $1.2 billion. But Evers wants more, much more. He descried old wounds, particularly that Republicans wouldn’t give him $1.4 billion in additional K-12 spending all in one fell swoop in the current two-year budget.
The governor claimed he doesn’t care who gets the credit, as long as his spending proposal wins out. Evers described the Republican tax cut — the return of excess tax revenue to taxpayers — as a “spending plan.”
Taxpayers are clearly losing. At an event in the Milwaukee area Wednesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said the surplus money would simply sit in the state’s bank account until next year’s budget is concluded. The Assembly, Republican leadership said, wrapped up floor work last week and doesn’t plan to come back to take up legislation, particularly a compromise tax cut/spending package with the governor.
Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the Legislature will likely return briefly in May, however, to override Evers’ vetoes.
“I don’t think there’s any common ground between now and early next year when the governor rolls out his budget,” Fitzgerald said in Franklin Wednesday afternoon. “We pleaded with him (Evers) to look at it in that context so we could ultimately return this money back to taxpayers.”
Fitzgerald said if Democrats don’t support the Republican tax relief package in the veto override attempt it would underscore to Wisconsin voters that Democrats have rejected another tax cut. Evers vetoed a middle-class tax cut plan by Republicans a year ago. The governor preferred his plan to cut income taxes by raising taxes on manufacturers and retirement savings. The Republican plan mostly survived the final budget.
As Empower Wisconsin reported earlier this week, a new study shows about 2 million taxpayers would benefit from the tax cut proposal. More so, the study finds, low income tax filers would benefit most through after-tax income.
“It seems that Governor Evers is obsessed with growing government more than addressing the needs of the middle class. This was a missed opportunity to do the right thing,” Vos said in a statement.