A Republican proposal that would fund Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ campaign pledge for tax relief but tap surplus funds to pay for it appeared to land flat with the new governor.
Rather than pay for the cuts through Evers’ preferred option - a reduction of the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit - the GOP proposal would fund it through state budget surplus funds.
Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, said the proposal hopes to ring a bipartisan note by giving the Democratic governor “a win” on his campaign message while harnessing funds gleaned from Republican reforms of recent years to pay for it.
“It’s not about one party,” he said Thursday, Jan. 17. “It’s about the Wisconsin taxpayer. That feels a lot better to me than anything else we can do through political theater.”
Wisconsin ended the 2018-19 fiscal year with a $588.5 million surplus, according to a Department of Administration report. Democrats contend that a budget deficit is on the horizon and that the surplus figures have yet to be finalized.
The GOP proposal didn’t appear to gain traction with Evers. A spokeswoman said Evers’ campaign proposal to roll back the tax credit provides a sustainable funding stream, rather than a one-time shot.
“In contrast, Speaker (Robin) Vos’ spending plan continues to grow,” spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said. “Between this unfunded proposal, their refusal to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, and growing legal fees for outside counsel to defend their lame-duck laws, Republicans are willing to leave taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Zimmerman said the proposal was generated after Republican legislators met this week with Evers. Wisconsin’s tax burden and pre-existing conditions were priorities on each side, he said.
“So we developed a proposal which gives Gov. Evers the ability to maintain a campaign promise he made and the same one I made in District 30,” Zimmerman said. “Let’s lower taxes and send money back to those that earned it.”
Republicans have chafed the notion of reducing the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit, passed by the GOP Legislature in 2011, while Democrats have called the measure corporate welfare for manufacturing companies.
“To me, it feels good,” Zimmerman said. “We are - as a bipartisan body, as a Legislature - we recognize it’s the right thing to do. It gives the governor an immediate win on something he ran on.”