By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker wants the Legislature to pass a $100 million property tax cut next week, a move that would lower taxes on the typical home $13 this year.
Walker’s surprise and hastily organized announcement Thursday came just three days after Democrat Mary Burke became the first officially announced challenger to the Republican incumbent in next year’s election.
Walker, flanked by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and budget committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, said his proposal was a win for taxpayers and would result in property tax bills for the median valued home by 2014 that are lower than when he took office.
“It’s what people are asking for, it’s what they deserve,” Walker said.
The reductions would be modest for the owner of a median-valued $148,000 home. Property taxes this year would be $13 less than under current law on the bill mailed this December. Taxes would be $20 less next year, based on estimates by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Taxes would drop from $2,938 to $2,925 this year and from $2,974 to $2,954 next year.
Even under the cut, property taxes are still projected to increase by $11 — from $2,943 to $2,954 — in two years for the typical home. The actual amount that people pay varies widely across the state based on the value of their home and where they live.
“Given that there’s so much variability in local property taxes anyway, for many people it won’t be noticed,” said Todd Berry, president of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
Republicans were optimistic that Democrats would join them in quickly passing the proposal next week. Vos said he hoped the bill would be introduced on Friday, with the budget committee taking it up on Tuesday, followed by legislative consideration on Thursday.
“I don’t know why anybody would be opposed to this,” said Republican Senate President Mike Ellis.
But Democrats, who don’t have the votes to stop it, were skeptical. Even though Walker met with Democratic leaders on Wednesday, he didn’t tell them about his proposal, said Melanie Conklin, spokeswoman for Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.
“We haven’t seen this idea that we’re supposed to get behind,” said Democratic Rep. Sandy Pasch, who attended Walker’s news conference that was announced with less than two hours’ notice. “The devil’s in the details on all of this.”
Walker said money to pay for the cut will come from higher than anticipated state tax collections. The money, split $40 million this year and $60 million next year, will flow through the school aid formula but not be available for schools to spend, forcing it to go toward lowering taxes, Walker said.
Burke, a former state Commerce Department secretary and Trek Bicycle Corp. executive, was asked about Walker’s tax cut during a campaign stop in Green Bay.
“I’m all in favor of lower taxes and supporting our schools, but I’d have to make sure that it’s doing that and it’s doing it in a way that’s fiscally responsible and balancing the budget,” Burke said of Walker’s plan.
Walker backs historic tax credit bill
The push to double the rate of Wisconsin’s historic preservation tax credit received the endorsement of Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday.
At a news conference in which Walker announced a $100 million cut in property taxes over the next two years, he also threw his support behind an effort
to raise the credit the state offers restorers of historic buildings from 10 percent to 20 percent. But Walker stopped short of backing a provision that
some advocates of the change say is essential: allowing developers to sell the credits to outside investors.
“That is negotiable,” Walker said.
Senate Bill 132, which would increase the credit rate to 20 percent, received the approval of Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining
and Revenue on Sept. 25. The bill, as well as its companion legislation, Assembly Bill 147, are next scheduled to go before Legislature’s Joint Finance
Committee, which often has a say on matters affecting state revenue. An exact date for that hearing, though, has not been set.
Two Republican members of the committee, state Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, have expressed misgivings
about letting the credits be sold, saying that practice would shift the benefit to someone other than developers.
But proponents of the bills note that the state tax credit can be applied to only Wisconsin income taxes, which few companies from other places are
likely to owe. Prohibiting sales of the credits would keep Wisconsin at a disadvantage to places such as Missouri and Minnesota, which offer historic
preservation tax credits of at least 20 percent and allow the credits to be transferred to outside investors.
If SB 132 and AB 147 are passed, developers would be able to use the credits to lower their state income taxes by an amount equal to 20 percent of their
expenditures on renovations of properties on the National Register of Historic Places. An amended version of the same bill would offer a similar 20
percent credit for renovations of buildings that are not on the Historic Register but were brought into service before 1936.
— Dan Shaw