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Walker proposes raising homestead credit for low-income seniors (UPDATE)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker is calling for increasing the maximum property-tax credit for low-income senior citizens by 50 percent.

The Republican governor said on Monday he wants to let people who make up to $37,020 and are at least 62 years old claim the credit. The current maximum income is $24,680. When Walker’s office first put forward the proposal last month, representatives of the governor said the average benefit from the increase would amount to $483.

Walker’s Democratic opponent, Tony Evers, meanwhile  proposed a series of changes he said he would carry out should Wisconsin voters elect him governor. Among them: automatic voter registration for 18-year-olds, nonpartisan redistricting and the enlisting of an inspector general to serve as a watchdog over state government.

The dueling proposals came just five weeks before the general election, scheduled for Nov. 6.

Walker argued that Evers was making the proposals to distract voters from his support for raising taxes. Evers has said he’s open to increasing some taxes while cutting others as part of a broad agenda to lower the tax burden on working families and find a sustainable way to pay for roads.

“The only thing that people are going to get from Tony Evers are higher taxes,” Walker said, after discussing his proposal for homestead-tax credits at the Milwaukee home of Carol Kimpel, who has owned that property since 1953.

The governor said his proposed changes to Wisconsin’s homestead tax credit would increase the benefit amount going to people like Kimpel from $1,168 to $1,752. The push to raise the credit comes after Walker, in his first state budget, eliminated indexing of the homestead-exemption program. That change did away with automatic annual increases in the maximum income levels that determine when someone qualifies for the credits. It also did away with certain property-tax credits.

Democrats have tried every budget since then to restore the annual increases. Republicans have voted them down.

Evers’ proposals, meanwhile, includes a mix of new and old ideas from him. Many of his policies ideas were lacking in detail.

They called for:

  • setting up a nonpartisan redistricting-reform commission. Democrats have supported taking the job away from the Legislature since Republicans passed GOP-drawn maps in 2011. Evers has previously called for a nonpartisan system to be adopted before the next maps are drawn following the 2020 census.
  • eliminating Walker’s economic-development agency, a private-public partnership called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Evers wants to return to using an agency that’s similar to the state’s former Commerce Department.
  •  enlisting an inspector general office to “ensure Wisconsin families have an independent, nonpartisan watchdog keeping an eye on our Wisconsin government.” He did not provide details about where the office would be housed, how large it would be or how much it would cost.
  • cutting “wasteful spending” including overpayments on road projects, overuse of the state airplane, and commemorative coins bearing an agency motto, like those used by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel. Evers did not have details on how much spending he intends to save or how he would identify what is wasteful, including what the appropriate use of the state airplane should be. Walker has faced criticism from the liberal group One Wisconsin Now and Democrats over his use of the state airplane.
  • preventing the use of non-disclosure agreements in state agencies. Schimel has used such agreements for Department of Justice workers.
  • requiring a 48-hour “cooling off” period between public hearings on legislation and committee votes, a break designed to ensure the public has time to weigh in on proposals.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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