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Report: Property taxpayers could use some relief

Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 22, 2020

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers delivers his State of the State address tonight in front of the Legislature. Will the Democrat in his political pep talk mention the spike in property taxes Wisconsin homeowners were hit with last month?

A limited-government organization is calling on Evers and the Republican-controlled Legislature to make property tax relief a priority once more, as it was under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

In a report slated for release later today, the Institute for Reforming Government points to a 4.5 percent increase in December’s tax bills, the largest year-over-year increase in a decade.

“Wisconsin and other states considering property tax issues should look toward the record of Governor Walker and the legislature on cutting property taxes and putting homeowners first,” IRG asserts.

During his two terms, Walker worked with the Legislature to deliver north of $5 billion in tax relief to Wisconsin property taxpayers, the report notes. Wisconsin property tax bills for a median valued home were lower after eight years under Walker than when he took office in 2011. Walker and legislative conservatives got rid of the Forestry Mill Tax. The state property tax had been in place for nearly 100 years and cost taxpayers a combined $83 million in fiscal year 2015-16, for instance.

Despite the billions of dollars  in property tax relief in recent years, IRG notes there remains much work to do.

Wisconsin last year ranked 6th highest in average property tax rate on owner-occupied housing and 14th highest in property tax collections per capita, according to the Tax Foundation. And personal finance experts, Kiplinger, ranks Wisconsin as one of the worst states for retirees in 2019. Kiplinger noted high property taxes as one of the driving forces behind the Badger State’s 4th-worst ranking.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has said he supports another round of property tax relief. Evers has pointed to other priorities, apparently preferring to put surplus state revenue — taxpayer money — into government programs and initiatives.

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