Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday passed their version of the next two-year state budget, which includes a massive income tax cut covering all taxpayers. It now heads to the desk of Democratic Governor Tony Evers, who can sign it, veto it, or use his powerful partial veto pen to change the plan.
Republicans framed the proposal as a “historic” investment in their priorities, and said the tax cut fulfilled a promise to voters about returning money to them. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the tax cut would attract business to the state and make Wisconsin competitive among its neighbors.
“The goal is to try to keep successful people in Wisconsin, no matter what their income is,” Vos said shortly before debate began. “And one of the things that’s always frustrated me is when people choose to retire, they take their success and they move to another state.”
Democrats argued that the tax cut squanders the state’s estimated $7 billion surplus, which they said could have been spent on priorities like child care, transportation and youth mental health services.
The budget now headed to Evers would spend about $99 billion over the next two years when counting all funding, both state and federal. Evers’ budget would have spent about $105 billion by that same measure.
The GOP budget would still increase all spending by nearly 12 percent, including a 10 percent increase in the state’s general fund.
The plan includes raises for state and university workers, and a higher starting pay for corrections officers at a time when Wisconsin’s jails are on a path to overcrowding. Assistant district attorneys and public defenders would also see higher pay, which supporters say will help attract and retain staff, and deal with a backlog in the state’s court system.
The GOP budget would also create a $125 million fund to mitigate PFAS pollution and spend roughly $2.4 billion on Wisconsin’s capital budget for building projects.
It also included $1 billion between state and local funding for public education, which was negotiated between Evers and Republicans weeks ago as part of a sweeping deal on local government funding.