By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a Republican-authored $250 million income tax bill on Wednesday at an elementary school in Wauwatosa, arguing that the Legislature should instead back his plan to spend more on education.
Evers proposed spending $250 million on K-12 schools, with $130 million to reduce property taxes, but Republicans ignored his plan. They said increasing spending on schools will be part of the debate over the next state budget in 2021.
“Look, I get it,” Evers said of the rejection of his school plan. “Republicans are more concerned about the perception of giving a Democratic governor a win than getting things done. Politics plain and simple.”
Evers vetoed the tax bill, the 12th his vetoed as governor, in the school library surrounded by Democratic lawmakers.
The tax plan Evers vetoed would have cost $392 million. The plan to reduce income taxes by nearly $250 million would have sent an average of $106 back to every qualifying taxpayer. It would have also reduced business taxes by nearly $45 million and trimmed state debt by $100 million.
Evers and the Legislature put forward the two plans in the wake of news that Wisconsin is expected to have a $620 million budget surplus by mid-2021. Republicans pushed for the tax cut, saying the higher-than-expected tax collections should be returned to people who paid them. Evers said the surplus instead should be tapped to help schools pay for mental-health and special-education needs, reduce property taxes, send more aid to rural schools and have the state provide two-thirds of schools’ funding.
“We cannot ignore the fact that our kids and our educators and our schools continue to be stretched too thin,” Evers said. “I don’t care who gets the credit, I just know the people of our state deserve elected officials who get things done and funding our schools and reducing property taxes should be something we agree on.”
Evers said he hoped that he and lawmakers could work together on a compromise that would spend more on schools, while reducing taxes and state debt.
“I am hopeful Republican and Democratic leadership in the Legislature will come to the table to get this done for the people of our state,” he said in his veto message.
The GOP tax cut bill passed the Senate 19-14; all the Republicans in that chamber were in support and the Democrats were against. In the Assembly it passed 65-34; two Democrats joined all Republicans in voting for it. That’s just one vote short of the 66 that would be needed to override the veto, but the Assembly has no plans to meet again this year. Four previous attempts to override Evers’ vetoes have failed in the Assembly. Even if they were to succeed, three Democrats would have to switch sides.
More vetoes from Evers are expected in the coming days on bills Republicans passed last week. They include several anti-crime proposals that are projected to increase the prison population so much the state would have to build two new detention centers.