Thursday, October 17, 2013

WisDems play hardball, and offer real property tax relief

Now this is the way Dems should play ball. Instead of lamely going along with Gov Walker's and WisGOP's tepid, deficit-increasing "property tax relief" bill, State Reps Peter Barca, Jon Richards, and other Dems upped the ante today. They proposed a counter-package that not only would have given Wisconsinites a real tax break for next year, but also was more fiscally responsible in the process.

If you look at the LFB's analysis of the Dem proposal, you'll see it would have been an improvement over the Walker/WisGOP plan in a number of ways.

1. Tax cut is larger, especially for lower and middle-income Wisconsinites that qualify. The way this would have been done is by changing the $100 million from being increased funding for school aids, and instead adding it to the state's First Dollar property tax credit. LFB explains:
The first dollar credit is extended to each taxable parcel of real estate on which improvements are located.
Then, the amount of the credit is based on the school tax rate for the area. The LFB estimated that all qualified recipients of the First Dollar credit would get a write-off of $45 on both their 2013 and 2014 property taxes, compared to a drop of $13 in 2013 and $20 more in 2014 under the Walker/WisGOP plan.

In addition, the $45 would go to ANY parcel of property that has had improvements, regardless of the value of it. This is worth noting as LFB's analysis shows that high-value properties stand to get tax cuts of hundreds of dollars under the Walker/WisGOP plan, but a $100,000 home is only looking at a $9 reduction this year under the same plan. Granted, a drawback is that unimproved properties in the state wouldn't get anything under this, but a significant amount of properties in the state would be affected, as evidenced by the credit already being at $150 million, with the Dem bill expanding it to $250 million.

2. It would take the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. And it does so by expanding Medicaid eligibility to adults that make 133% of the poverty income level (vs. 100% of the poverty line under Walker's "Work Makes you Free" plan). In addition to the tens of thousands of additional Wisconsinites that would be covered, the LFB says this provision would SAVE $119 million for state taxpayers in the next 2 years, due to the feds covering more of the costs under Obamacare.

3. It returns indexing to the Homestead Credit. This removal of indexing was a back-door tax increase put in by Walker and WisGOP in Scotty's first budget, and this would reverse that move. In the process, it would save lower-income taxpayers $17.6 million over the next 2 years.

4. It adds to the rainy day fund, and lowers the budget deficit. The Dem plan also would move $40 million in year 1 and $60 million in year 2 to the state's Budget Stabilization Fund, so it's set aside in case of a downturn in the next couple of years. The LFB also says that the structural deficit for the 2015-17 budget would be $672 million, or $53 million LESS than the Walker/WisGOP plan would have. It also bulks up the rainy day fund to improve the chances of dealing with any in-year deficits that might show up.

So in short, the property tax relief is larger for many Wisconsinites, the structural deficit is less, and more Wisconsinites get health insurance. Sounds like a win-win-win, doesn't it?

Naturally, the "fiscally responsible" Republicans killed the proposed Dem law, and went ahead and passed their miniscule property tax relief bill. It passed overwhelmingly (82-12), mostly because some relief is better than nothing for most politicians, but that didn't stop Rep. Barca from rightfully ripping WisGOP's silly effort.
“There are two irrefutable facts: One, Republican legislators and Gov. Walker raised property taxes in their budget. Two, today Republicans voted against a plan that would actually cut property taxes for all property taxpayers, instead passing a plan that simply offers a lower tax hike for some taxpayers.

“Days after Gov. Walker got a strong election opponent, documents show he rushed to draft a bill as a political stunt to distract from his failures on job creation and his budget that raised property taxes.
I sure hope Mary Burke and other Dems take the hint from Rep. Barca, because THIS is how Dems need to act for the next 13 months. Not only in developing creative solutions that direct any tax cuts toward the middle and lower classes while being fiscally responsible, but in mincing no words when it comes to exposing the games and meaningless actions that are the S-O-P for today's WisGOP.


  1. This could be really good: an amendment could be offered to practically any bill that combines acceptance of Medicaid expansion dollars with tax cuts, additions to the rainy day fund and reduction of the GOP's deficit.

    Just keep hammering it home that Walker and his legislative allies are incapable of making fiscally sensible decisions as often as the opportunity arises.

  2. Geoff beat me to it. But yes. This is what the Dems need to do. Take their selling point and put real legislation behind it. If the Repiblicans reject the Dems legislation/amendments, then highlight it to the public. Or more simply- What Geoff said...