Cutting income taxes and freezing property taxes will reverse Wisconsin’s flagging job creation numbers, the Republican leaders of the Legislature and its powerful budget committee predicted Tuesday.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Alberta Darling and John Nygren told the State Journal editorial board Tuesday that the $1 billion in proposed tax cuts over the next two years sends a message to businesses to create more jobs. Wisconsin currently ranks 44th in the nation in job creation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We spent the first two years trying to get our budget in order,” said Vos, R-Rochester. “Next, we are at this budget, where I am proud of the fact that we had a very large tax cut that will impact almost every single taxpayer in Wisconsin who pays income taxes. In essence, we have a property tax freeze, with less than
1 percent (increase) statewide.”
At the same time, K-12 education funding is proposed to increase $100 per student in the first year of the 2013-15 budget and $150 per student in the second year. Gov. Scott Walker had proposed
keeping education funding flat.
The leaders also defended the insertion of policy items, such as reinstituting bail bonding in Wisconsin, in the two-year spending plan. That measure — tucked into the budget by the Joint Finance Committee during an all-night session — would let private companies post bail for defendants and arrest them if they skip court.
The system has been illegal in Wisconsin for 35 years — following kickbacks and bribery scandals — and the state’s law enforcement community — from Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on down — opposes it.
“This is about, do you want to take a chance in returning corruption to our judicial system?” asked Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
Vos defended the measure, saying 46 other states have such a system and it would be “100 percent voluntary — no judges in Wisconsin have to use it.”
The top Assembly leader said he was proudest of the tax cuts in the budget awaiting Walker’s signature. State taxpayers earning $50,000 or less a year would get an average break of $45 a year while those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 would see a cut of $272 a year.
Darling, R-River Hills, said she has heard from business owners that “whether the tax cut is big enough or too small, it sends the right signal to job creators that Wisconsin is changing and you’re here to do more.”
But Barca said the measure would give poor people just a few extra dollars a month compared to an average $140-a-month cut for those earning $300,000 or more.
“Economists say all the time — if you want to stimulate the economy, give money to the middle class and those struggling to get into the middle class,” he said.
Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he also sees economic strengths that the job numbers don’t show. Both sales tax and income tax revenues are projected to increase by hundreds of millions of dollars over three years. “That really tells me … the economy of Wisconsin is expanding,” he said.
The four also defended tax cuts for parents sending children to private K-12 schools. Fitzgerald said the deduction — a maximum $600 on a $10,000-a-year private high school tuition — would boost the private school system in Wisconsin. He said such schools lift a “huge tax burden on the state” by educating thousands of students.
Barca responded: “A lot of public schools are on the bubble as to whether they’ll stay open. And you want to subsidize the private schools?”