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Wisconsin Legislature sends $250 million tax cut to governor

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Thursday sent a plan to reduce income taxes by $250 million to Gov. Tony Evers, who appears likely to veto it.

The Senate and Assembly voted to pass the election-year tax plan. All Democrats voted against it except for Reps. Nick Milroy and Steve Doyle. Republicans were unified in their support.

Evers has not said whether he will sign the proposal, which Republicans put forward after new estimates projected the state would have a $620 million budget surplus by mid-2021. Evers instead wants to tap the surplus to lower property taxes and spend more on K-12 schools, but lawmakers have refused to take up his $250 million plan.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who discussed both plans with Evers this week, said he hoped the governor would sign the tax cut even though the Legislature is rejecting his school aid plan. Any discussion of bolstering aid for schools will have to wait for the next state budget, Fitzgerald said.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said “there’s no good reason” for Evers to veto the bill, noting that it would pay down debt, reduce taxes for the middle class and help businesses by reducing their property taxes.

“There is nothing in there that should be partisan,” Vos told reporters.

But in yet another sign that a veto of the tax bill was likely, Evers tweeted that the plan “unsustainable” and urged Republicans to “do the right thing” and pass his school proposal.

The Assembly passed the tax plan on Thursday as part of a flurry of action on its final planned day in session for the year. The Assembly was giving final approval to bills that already passed the Senate or making proposals available for it to vote on next month. The Senate plans to return for one final day in March. A bill must pass both the Senate and Assembly in identical form for it to go to Evers.

The tax bill would would deliver an average reduction of $106 for most qualifying filers. Married couples who file jointly would see an average cut of $145; all other filers would see an average reduction of $81. The bill also would reduce taxes for manufacturers by nearly $45 million by exempting their machinery and tools from property taxes and trim state debt by $100 million.

The Assembly also passed bills Thursday that would:

– Mandate that schools teach cursive writing. The Department of Public Instruction estimates public and charter schools would have to spend as much as $7.6 million on student materials such as workbooks and teacher training in at least the first year of the requirement.

– Raise state troopers’ salaries by 10% retroactive to July 2019 payable in a lump sum, boost troopers’ starting salaries by $6,000 annually and adjust the pay scale for all troopers according to their seniority. All troopers would also receive a 2% raise for each of the past two years. The Senate approved the bill Wednesday.

– Require police departments to give the public access to most body-camera footage under Wisconsin’s open-records law. The Senate passed the bill Wednesday.

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