MADISON, Wis. — A budget battle in the Wisconsin Assembly played out Tuesday, with Republicans touting $3.4 billion in income and property tax cuts while Democrats pushed for more education funding.
It’s one of the final steps in a months-long process, with the plan set for final Assembly approval and scheduled next for a vote on the Senate floor Wednesday before reaching Gov. Tony Evers’ desk.
Debate stretched for hours on Tuesday afternoon and evening, with Democrats introducing multiple amendments for things like accepting federal BadgerCare expansion dollars that failed to get support. In a technical amendment, Republicans passed a change that would make parts of the budget more difficult for Gov. Evers to partially veto.
The debate over how the budget utilized a $4.4 billion expected surplus over the next three years dominated floor debate Tuesday evening. Democrats wanted more of it sent to schools, saying Republicans had only met the bare minimum for the level of state spending on schools required so that they wouldn’t lose $2.5 billion in federal aid.
“More money than we’ve ever had, and you guys put 2% of it into the classroom,” Rep. Hintz said in floor debate. In a press conference, he said, “Republicans focused on using the surplus in a way that meets the bare minimum federal requirements.”
The budget had allocated $128 million in additional spending for schools. In order to satisfy maintenance-of-effort funding requirements to stay eligible for federal COVID education funds, Republicans also built in funding to match what schools would lose in proposed property tax cuts. Republican leadership argued the budget represented the best funding for education in decades.
“We also took a conservative approach, a very thoughtful, a very targeted approach of the use of your state dollars when it comes to education,” Rep. Shannon Zimmerman said (R-River Falls).
“When we look at the actual investments made in education, this budget is among the worst of the last decade,” Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) said in a press conference.
Income Tax Cuts
Income tax cuts costing the state $2.6 billion represents the majority of how Republicans are opting to use extra state revenue. The break reduces one of the tax brackets from 6.27% to 5.3%, and applies to everyone making between $24,000 and $263,000 (or $31,000 to $351,000 if filing jointly).
- If you make $40K-$50K, you could expect about $115 in savings annually
- If you make between $100K and $125K, you could expect about $1,000 annually
- Three-fourths of the tax cuts will apply to those making $100K or more
“Luckily in Wisconsin we are able to return real dollars on a permanent basis so people can use those to make decisions for their own families as opposed to depending on government,” Rep. Vos said.
Gov. Evers has remained silent on whether he will use either his partial or full veto powers on the budget, only urging lawmakers to properly fund schools.
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