State lawmakers plan to eliminate the state’s portion of the property tax in the next state budget, according to leaders of the budget-writing committee.
Gov. Scott Walker called for eliminating the forestry mill tax in his 2017-2019 budget proposal. According to the state’s nonpartisan budget office, the average homeowner paid about $26 for the tax in 2016.
Leaders of the budget committee said Wednesday they plan to approve the governor’s plan to cut the tax.
“Both houses agree we’re going to stay with the governor’s position,” said state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, co-chair of the budget committee.
The tax funds forestry programs and pays for equipment used by local fire departments to fight forest fires. Under the governor’s plan, those programs would keep current funding levels, with their money coming instead from the state’s general fund.
A state tax watchdog group is reporting a large portion of the state budget actually is devoted to property tax relief in one form or another.
President Todd Berry of Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says property tax relief is the ‘tail that wags the political dog in Wisconsin’…
“….we looked at all the taxes and fees spent by the state and close to $10 billion of that, or about 4 in every 10 dollars goes in some way or another to try to reduce property taxes. That could be either through aiding local governments or schools or funding direct property tax credits on tax bills or various credits on the income tax…..”
Berry says since starting the income tax in 1911 has provided a lot of money to local governments, counties and municipalities. He says about half of the $10 billion goes to schools at various levels. He says the most effective property tax relief has been the state property tax credits on the local tax bill have been the most effective, while other forms of relief are less direct to local taxpayers.
Berry says only about 12 percent of the budget goes to state agency operations. Berry says it’s ironic that the budget puts so much emphasis in controlling property taxes…
“….for all intents and purposes, the state doesn’t levy property taxes. The other irony is that in spite of all this Wisconsin’s property taxes still rank in the top 10-12 states in the country and are typically up to 20 percent above the state average. Alot of money from the state attempting to relieve something that the state doesn’t directly control….”
GOP lawmakers have rejected Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to cut tuition at the University of Wisconsin System, but they’ll continue a tuition freeze for in-state students at system campuses.
Overall, the Republican budget would increase state funding on the UW System by $36 million over the next two years. It would be the first time Republicans have increased state funding for the system since they took control of state government in 2011. “I’m pleased that today we are making an important investment in the UW System,” said Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Hills.
Democrats disputed that, saying when you consider the amount of revenue the UW System would lose under two more years of a tuition freeze, the system would see less funding, not more. “This puts the UW behind,” said Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point. “And I’m disappointed.”
Most of the new state funding the system would receive would be tied to performance measures that would be set by the Board of Regents. The budget committee approved $31 million in performance funding, which is less than the $42 million Walker proposed.
The performance measures would have to emphasize student access, degree completion, contributions to the workforce and enhanced efficiency. That’s far more general than the performance measures proposed by Walker, who wanted to tie state funding to everything from faculty instruction hours to the number of math and science graduates a campus produces.
In a written statement, UW System President Ray Cross praised the plan. “I would like to thank the members of the Joint Finance Committee for their support of the UW System,” Cross said.
The Republican co-chairs of the budget committee also pledged to support back-to-back 2 percent raises for UW System employees later in the budget process, although they did not vote on the raises Thursday. Those would mirror the raises Walker proposed for other state employees.
State lawmakers are looking to do away with Wisconsin’s personal property tax.
Republican state Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) is sponsoring legislation to eliminate what he says is a relic of the state’s tax code that unfairly targets small businesses.
“Before the technology and infrastructure existed for the administration of an income tax, sales tax, corporate tax, and many other excise taxes and fees, the property tax was the only realistic revenue source government had,” Stroebel told a legislative committee on Wednesday.
Lawmakers heard from a long line of small business owners, who testified on how the tax has made it difficult for them to do business, since they often have to come up with a value to apply to used equipment.
Bud Styer with the Wisconsin Campground Association, who operates 16 parks in the state, said the tax is “all over the board” across the state, and they’ve watched as personal homes, computers, and other items have been exempted. “The pie that used to be a whole pie is now just a sliver,” he said.
It’s estimated eliminating the tax would reduce state revenues by about $261 million, and Democrats on the committee questioned how that might impact state finances. While Stroebel said the legislature’s budget committee would determine cuts in state spending to help cover the lost revenue, Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) said there needs to be more transparency on what those cuts might look like.
“I don’t want to see more cuts to education, we certainly can’t afford more cuts to education,” Ringhand said. “We have a lot of areas where we’re struggling right now, and I’d rather have a stronger answer as to where the money’s going to come from.”
Governor Scott Walker has issued Executive Order #245 creating the Governor’s Steering Committee on Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Testing and Deployment, which will advise the Governor on how to best advance the testing and operation of automated vehicles in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is uniquely positioned to study, test, and develop automated and connected vehicle technology. In fact, the University of Wisconsin-Madison was recently chosen as one of ten ‘Proving Grounds’ by the United States Department of Transportation to research how we can make automated vehicles a reality.
As a result, I’m creating a Steering Committee to assist with this process by advising me and other state agencies on how we can safely and effectively test and study autonomous and connected vehicles on Wisconsin roads.
This is great news for Wisconsin and has the potential to create jobs, spur economic growth, and strengthen mobility throughout the state. We have a long history of contributing to advancements in the automotive field, and I know we will rise to the challenge in this instance as well.
A copy of Executive Order #245 is attached.
Gov. Scott Walker is making an aggressive push to eliminate the state’s portion of property tax bills in the 2017-19 state budget, but his proposal is getting resistance from forestry groups across the state. For the average homeowner, the forestry mill tax cost about $26 in 2016, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
The tax pays for items such as equipment to fight forest fires. In his budget proposal, Walker cut the tax and funded its programs from the state’s general fund budget instead.
That change concerns some forestry groups.
“This would mean that forestry would have to line up with schools and with transportation and with health care and all the other important needs that are funded with general revenue,” said Fred Clark, executive director of the Forest Stewards Guild.
The programs are fully funded in the 2017-19 proposal from the governor, but Clark expressed concern they could be cut in future budgets. “There’s no guarantee that the level of funding that’s provided today would be sustained,” Clark said.
Some GOP state lawmakers have also expressed concern about the governor’s plan.
“I think there’s some in our caucus that have concerns about the things (the mill tax) actually funds within forestry, especially when you get into more rural parts of the state,” said Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, before Tuesday’s budget committee meeting.
Nygren’s co-chair on the committee, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the issue is being debated in the Senate as well. “This is not a consensus deal right now,” Darling said.
Supporters argue the tax cut will help make home ownership more affordable in Wisconsin.
The proposal has yet to come before the budget committee for a vote. The committee is scheduled to complete its work by June 30
Wisconsin’s 106-year-old labor commission would vanish and Gov. Scott Walker’s administration would decide workplace disputes in its place under a budget proposal up for consideration Thursday in the Legislature’s finance committee.
Walker’s plan to eliminate the Labor and Industry Review Commission could create uncertainty in applying Wisconsin labor law, raising questions about whether the commission’s precedent-setting decisions would evaporate and whether his administration can fairly weigh cases.
The commission was formed in 1911 as the State Industrial Commission. The panel of three governor’s appointees considers appeals of administrative law judges’ rulings in fights over unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation and equal rights in the workplace.
The finance committee is a key testing ground for the budget. Its changes to Walker’s two-year, $76 billion proposal are the blueprint for what the Senate and Assembly will vote on, and though the full Legislature often makes changes, they typically don’t stray far from the committee’s recommendations.
Walker’s budget would eliminate the commission and its 26.5 positions in January to save an estimated $5.1 million. Its work would be handled by the Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Administration’s Division of Hearings and Appeals — both Walker cabinet agencies.
The governor’s administration justified the move by noting the number of appeals has dropped nearly 60 percent between 2011 and 2016. DWD Secretary Ray Allen said eliminating the commission would speed up appeals.
Parties can appeal the commission’s decisions to circuit and state appellate courts. Those courts have given great deference to the commission, lending certainty to labor disputes. Parties in disputes could end up going to court more often if it’s eliminated, leading to more expensive disputes. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates about 1,000 additional cases could end up in court annually if the commission disappears. Only 88 commission cases went to court in 2016.