Work on State Budget Resuming

After two months of stalemate, work on the stalled state budget will restart next week as lawmakers take up a property tax cut and hear testimony on an up to $3 billion deal to lure a flat screen plant to southeastern Wisconsin.

The Legislature’s budget committee will meet twice next week in its first sessions since June 15 and will vote on eliminating the state’s roughly $86 million-a-year property tax for forestry. The Joint Finance Committee isn’t scheduled, however, to act on the most difficult to resolve issues like spending on state highways, a personal property tax levied on businesses and school funding.

Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), the panel’s co-chairman, said there is an agreement in principle on transportation and the personal property tax between Gov. Scott Walker and GOP leaders in the Senate and Assembly. But Nygren declined to reveal the deal in detail, saying it was tentative and could still fall apart as legislative leaders share it with rank-and-file lawmakers.

“It’s not final, but there’s a framework,” Nygren said.

A spokesman for Walker had no comment but the committee’s other co-chair, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), said progress has been made between Senate Republicans, who favor sizable borrowing for road construction, and Assembly Republicans, who oppose new borrowing without new revenue to pay for it.

 “We’re very close on transportation and both sides had to give to get to something,” Darling said.

Both Nygren and Darling said the committee will vote Thursday to eliminate the property tax levied by the state for forestry programs, which would save $26 on the tax bill for a median-valued home.

Nygren and Darling said the budget committee is also close to a deal to cut the personal property tax, which is levied by local governments and paid by businesses on certain furniture and equipment.

Darling said Republicans are looking at eliminating the tax on certain classes of property to help small businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores.

The tax is also levied on some manufacturers, but Darling noted that Republicans have already moved to eliminate nearly all income and corporate taxes on manufacturers.

“I think the priority is small business,” Darling said.