By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled budget committee voted on Thursday to do away with Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to counterbalance his proposed gas-tax increase while eliminating other significant proposals from his state budget.
Republican lawmakers on the state’s Joint Finance Committee have been talking for weeks about killing some of the most significant proposals put forward by Evers. On Thursday, they did just that by outvoting their Democratic colleagues on the panel 11 to 4.
Among the proposals eliminated, one would have repealed the state’s minimum markup on gasoline, a law that inflates the cost of gas to deter what some think is unfair competition. By calling for getting rid of the markup, Evers was seeking to lessen the sting of his proposal to increase the state’s gas tax by 8 cents a gallon. The governor and his allies reasoned that if gas prices were no longer being inflated by the markup, an increase in the gas tax might make no difference in what drivers actually pay at the pump.
Even while voting to keep the minimum markup, Republicans have announced no plans yet to ditch Evers’ call for a gas-tax increase. But changes to that part of the governor’s plans are still likely to come at a later date.
Also on Thursday, Republicans voted to eliminate Evers’ proposals to borrow as much as $40 million to help cover the cost of replacing lead pipes, primarily in Milwaukee. And they axed the governor’s proposal to repeal Wisconsin’s “right to work” law, which prohibits contract provisions requiring workers to pay fees means to cover the costs of union representation.
Other plans that were killed called for:
- Expanding Medicaid to cover an estimated 82,000 more poor people as part of a plan that would accept additional federal money to spend an additional $1.6 billion on health care in Wisconsin.
- Legalizing medical marijuana and de-criminalizing the possession, manufacture and distribution of up to 25 grams of pot.
- Increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.50 by 2023 and tie increases after that point to inflation.
- All but eliminating a tax credit for manufacturers, a step which would save the state an estimated $516.6 million but which Republicans say would amount to a tax increase on job creators.
- Offering driver’s licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally and letting them pay in-state tuition.
- Setting up automatic voter registration.
- Treating 17-year-olds as juveniles for most crimes, rather than as adults, as they are now.
- Ending a tax deduction for private school tuition.
- Closing the so-called dark-stores loophole, which allows big box retailers to save millions in property taxes by assessing the value of their active stores as if they were vacant.
- Restoring powers that Republicans had stripped from Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul during a lame-duck session in December.
- Ending a freeze on property tax levies for counties and municipalities, allowing them to increase their levies by 2%.