MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Income taxes would be cut by an average of $106 for a majority of tax filers in Wisconsin under a Republican proposal unveiled Friday that lawmakers plan to vote on next week and quickly send to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
The nearly $250 million income tax cut is the largest part of the GOP plan that also would reduce personal property taxes paid by manufacturers by nearly $45 million and trim general state debt by $100 million. Republicans are tapping some of the state’s projected $620 million budget surplus to pay for the tax cuts.
“Wisconsin is in great fiscal shape and we should prioritize giving money back to taxpayers,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz dismissed the proposal as hastily thrown together in the waning days of the session and ignoring the needs of schools in the state. He also faulted Republicans for saying funding mental health care was a priority but then not using some of the surplus to address it.
It’s unclear whether Evers supports any of the tax cuts. Evers’ spokeswoman Britt Cudaback did not comment on whether the governor would sign any part of the plan, but instead faulted Republicans for not spending more on schools and reducing property taxes.
Evers has proposed spending $130 million to cut property taxes as part of a $250 million school funding plan the Legislature has not taken up. Republican Rep. Joan Ballweg, in explaining why Republicans weren’t increasing school funding, said lawmakers will consider more money for schools when crafting the next state budget next year.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job funding schools,” she said.
The state budget that the GOP-controlled Legislature passed last year and Evers signed increased funding for K-12 schools by about $565 million over two years. Evers had proposed a $1.4 billion increase. Evers earlier this month called the Legislature into special session to spend $250 million more on schools, but the Assembly refused to take action.
The newly released Republican tax cut plan would not reduce personal property taxes as the governor proposed and that Fitzgerald had earlier said was a priority for him as well. Instead, it would increase the standard deduction for income tax filers, thereby cutting income taxes. Reducing income taxes, instead of property taxes, will put more cash directly into the pockets of taxpayers, Ballweg said.
The income tax cut would affect about 64% of all filers, about 2 million people, and result in an average decrease to those who qualify of $106, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Married couples filing jointly would see an average cut of $145, while all other filers would see an average reduction of $81.
Wisconsin has a sliding scale standard deduction that falls the more a person makes. The tax cut would increase the standard deduction for each filing type by 13.2%.
Under current law, married couples filing jointly who make less than $23,000 receive a $20,470 standard deduction. Under the bill, married couples earning up to $25,610 would receive a $23,170 standard deduction.
On the high end, currently any married couples earning more than $126,499 get no standard deduction. Under the plan, that income cut off would increase to $144,669.
The Senate plans to vote on the bill Wednesday, followed by the Assembly on Thursday, their final day in session this year.
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