By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Tony Evers, are tussling over tax increases.
Walker’s campaign on Wednesday asserted that if Evers is elected, he would raise taxes by billions of dollars. Evers’ campaign spokesman Sam Lau responded by saying, “Scott Walker is just making stuff up at this point.”
Walker has made taxes a central topic of debate with the election less than three weeks away and polls showing the race a tossup.
Although Evers has been vague about some of his plans for raising taxes, Walker has also not outlined in detail how he would pay for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of additional spending and tax cuts he has proposed.
Evers has made two concrete tax-related proposals. He wants to repeal the state’s manufacturing and agriculture tax credits, which were put in place by Walker and supported by the state’s business community. He then proposes using the money saved to pay for a $340 million, 10 percent income-tax reduction for the middle class. Evers released a new ad touting the tax plan on Wednesday.
Evers has also said that “everything’s on the table ” when it comes to paying for roads, including a gas-tax increase.
Walker has zeroed in on that comment, saying that since Evers wouldn’t initially rule out a $1-a-gallon increase, he might be very well open to it. Evers has subsequently said a $1-a-gallon increase would be “ridiculous.” Such an increase would raise $6.7 billion — enough to create and operate a second state Department of Transportation, which now runs on a budget that size.
Wisconsin’s gas tax is 32.9 cents per gallon, making it the 19th highest in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. An increase of the size mentioned by Walker would have Wisconsin’s gas tax collected at more than double the rate of the highest such tax in the U.S. — Pennsylvania’s at 58.7-cents a gallon.
Yet Walker has regularly brought up that number, including in a new campaign ad on Wednesday featuring a mom saying she couldn’t afford Evers as governor because “he’s going to raise the gas tax by up to a dollar per gallon.”
Walker’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger, in a conference call with reporters, said if the $1-a-gallon increase isn’t realistic, then Evers should give a range of what he would consider.
Although Evers has not stated a range, Walker hasn’t said specifically how he would pay for his proposals to increase state spending on schools to cover two-thirds of their expenses or bolster state support for local roads by about $110 million a year.
Walker also wants to spend $30 million more on worker training; approve a tax break for Kimberly-Clark Corp., which could cost tens of millions of dollars; give new college graduates tax credits of $1,000 a year for five years if they stay in Wisconsin; expand a property tax credit for senior citizens; and provide a tax break for child-care costs.
The schools spending increase would be cost about $130 million a year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, but Walker’s campaign has refused to put a dollar amount to it or say exactly where the money would come from.
“Good fiscal management and a strong economy puts us in position to do this kind of thing,” Reisinger said. He stressed that Walker has shown over eight years as governor that he follows through on promises, but that Evers has “no proven track record of getting things done.”
Evers, the state superintendent since 2009, submitted a budget proposal last month that would increase spending on schools by 10 percent. But his proposal would let the governor and Legislature how to pay for the proposed $1.4 billion increase in spending.