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Wisconsin Assembly, Walker propose child rebate, tax holiday

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin families with school-aged children would receive a one-time $100 tax rebate this summer and state sales tax would be waived on certain purchases the first weekend in August under a deal Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Republicans announced on Thursday.

The agreement is a variation of an election-year tax reduction the Republican incumbent governor first put forward last month that Democrats assailed as a gimmick to help Walker’s re-election bid. Although Walker and Assembly Republicans are in favor of the new proposal, it’s not clear whether it has the backing of Senate Republicans.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos denied there was any connection between the tax breaks and the coming election.

“I’ve never thought it was a gimmick,” he said. “Frankly, I am OK with anything to reduce the taxes paid in Wisconsin because we are overtaxed, period. I think this is a creative way to stimulate the economy.”

The Assembly will approve the plan later this month, Vos said. It’s not clear what will happen in the Senate, which must also approve it before it goes to Walker. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Under the deal, families with children who were between the ages of 5 and 17 last year and are now living at home would receive $100 for each qualifying kid. The money, estimated to come to about $122 million of the state’s budget surplus, would be delivered to all families regardless of income sometime in July. That is unchanged from what Walker had originally proposed.

“As I promised, when we have a surplus, we will give it back to you,” Walker said in a statement. “It’s your money.”

Walker originally wanted to offer a refundable income-tax credit starting in 2019, but that plan has been scrapped. Instead, there will be a one-time waiver of the state’s 5 percent sales tax on certain purchases, provided they cost less than $100 and are made in the first weekend in August. The total estimated cost to the state in lost tax revenue would be about $50 million.

For a $100 purchase, the tax savings would be $5. Single purchases over $100 would not qualify, but a shopper could make more than one trip to the check-out line to get the benefit if the total being bought were $99 or less. The reduction would also apply to online purchases.

“Our goal is actually to increase the economic ability of families this year,” Vos said, noting that the benefit will extend to all families regardless of income.

The exemption would not apply to alcohol or tobacco products, prepared food, taxable services, motor vehicles or vehicle parts, telecommunications or utility tangible or intangible property.

Walker proposed a more narrow sales-tax holiday in his last budget that would have applied only to back-to-school supplies. But Republicans rejected that, instead concentrating on other tax cuts.

Critics of sales-tax holidays, particularly retailers, argue they are costly and difficult to administer.

Sixteen states had some type of sales-tax holiday in 2017, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.

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