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Finance panel pushes Wisconsin GOP tax cuts to full Senate, Assembly



FILE - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers addresses a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers during the Governor's State of the State speech at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Jan. 22, 2019. Behind Evers is Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate President Roger Roth. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican lawmakers began a last-minute drive to pass their $250 million income tax cut plan Monday, pushing the bill through the Legislature’s finance committee and setting up floor votes in the Senate and Assembly this week.

The measure is moving with breathtaking speed as the GOP races to pass it before the Assembly adjourns its two-year session on Thursday. Republicans introduced the package Friday and passed it out of the Joint Finance Committee on a 10-4 vote in a rare Monday meeting. The vote clears the way for a Senate floor vote Wednesday and an Assembly vote Thursday.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed a $250 million school funding plan that includes a $130 million property tax cut but Republicans have refused to consider it.

Instead, this day’s old plan calls for increasing the standard deduction for income tax filers, resulting in an average reduction of $106 for most filers in Wisconsin. Married couples filing jointly would see an average cut of $145. All other filers would see an average reduction of $81. The cut would affect about 64% of all filers, or about 2 million people. The plan would also reduce taxes for manufacturers by nearly $45 million by exempting their machinery and tools from property taxes and trim general state debt by $100 million.

Republicans would cover the lost revenue by tapping the state’s projected $620 million budget surplus.

All four Democrats on the finance committee voted against the package. They spent more than two hours ahead of the vote Monday arguing that the package is rushed and trying to persuade Republicans into using the surplus to help public schools.

“Even when you have the money, you’re not going to do it,” Rep. Chris Taylor, a Madison Democrat, said. “You’re not going to use the additional funds to help our kids.”

Republicans countered that the current state budget gives schools a $565 million boost. Evers wanted $1.4 billion but the GOP whittled that amount down in the final version of the spending plan.

Republicans took turns promising the tax cut package would help hard-working families and manufacturers.

“I’d call this whole package the economic stimulus package of 2020,” Republican Rep. Dan Knodl of Germantown, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the finance committee during a hearing ahead of the vote. “”I hope we can all celebrate together when we get this passed.”

Rep. Shannon Zimmerman of River Falls said he’ll be proud to put in his campaign literature that he gave retirees a tax break. He said teachers have to learn to live within a budget just like businesses and families.

“For me, the vote is green,” he said.

Republicans control the Assembly and Senate, making passage all but certain. It’s unclear where Evers stands on the package, though. His spokeswoman, Britt Cudaback, has declined to comment on whether the governor would sign any part of the plan into law.

The finance committee also approved a pair of bills Monday that would cut taxes for Wisconsin farmers by $30 million annually. The GOP introduced the bills after Evers put out an $8.5 million package of agriculture proposals. The governor’s plan didn’t include any tax cuts, however. The Assembly could take up those bills this week.

Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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