By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican allies are making a big push this month to highlight the elimination of a state property tax that will save the owner of a typical home an estimated $27 a year.
Walker has been touting the tax cut across the state and this week both his re-election campaign and the Wisconsin Republican Party are spreading the word through online advertising and billboards.
Here’s a closer look at what Walker is talking about:
WHAT TAX GOT CUT?
The state budget Walker signed into law in September did away with the state forestry tax. It’s the only state-imposed property tax and is the smallest one, on average, of all levies included on a tax bill. The tax amounted to less than 17 cents per $1,000 of taxable income. The money collected, about $85 million a year, was dedicated to maintenance of 23 state forests, forest-fire prevention and suppression, repayment of debt under the state’s stewardship program and other programs promoting the health and economic productivity of forest land.
Walker replaced funding for the forestry programs with general state revenue, rather than money collected from property owners. Walker had threatened to veto the entire state budget if property taxes went up.
HOW MUCH IS MY TAX CUT?
The state property tax amounts to just $27 a year on the roughly $2,830 tax bill for a median-value $160,000 home. The vast majority of property taxes paid by homeowners are levied and collected locally by school districts, cities, counties and technical colleges. Whether an individual taxpayer’s property tax bill goes up or down will depend largely on what those local taxing entities do. Overall, property taxes on the owner of a median-valued home are projected to be about flat this year and down about $22 next year.
PROPERTY TAXES UNDER WALKER
Reducing property taxes has been one of Walker’s primary goals since he took office in 2011, and he’s succeeded. The average property tax bill on a median-valued home in 2010 was $2,963. This year, it’s projected to be $2,832. Critics say steps Walker has taken to hold down property taxes have hurt schools and local governments that are being forced to make cuts and take other steps to deal with less money.
WHAT IS WALKER SAYING?
Walker has been touting the tax cut this month because it’s when homeowners are receiving their property tax bills that are due in 2018. It will be the first time they see elimination of the state tax. Walker has encouraged taxpayers to post pictures of their reduced tax bills on Twitter, which has led to backlash from his opponents who have tweeted that their overall bill has gone up.
EXPECT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT IT
Walker and his allies will surely campaign on elimination of the state property tax, even though its impact on the typical tax bill is minimal. Walker’s re-election campaign announced Monday that it was launching new online ads on social media, news sites and elsewhere highlighting the tax cuts and asserting that Democrats will seek to raise taxes. The Wisconsin Republican Party on Monday also said it was launching a statewide billboard campaign, beginning in La Crosse on Tuesday, thanking Walker for cutting taxes.