Now that I've dug into the WISGOP Senate budget some more (and it is basically a rewriting of Gov Walker's budget), here are a few reactions. I'm going to talk about the non-DOT parts here, and will take up the DOT mess in another post.
1. The good - It finds money by dumping two of Walker's dumbest talking point gimmicks in the budget. The first is a $200 million income tax cut that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated would give the average Wisconsinite around $1 a week.
The other gimmick that goes away under the Senate GOP plan was Walker's proposed sales tax holiday, which would have done next to nothing for helping the state's economy, and would have been an extra burden for retailers.
2. The not so good- Another way the Senate GOP finds more money is by getting rid of $50 million that had been set aside in a contingency fund for health care spending. This was a sensible hedge by the Joint Finance Committee since who knows how much the Feds would cover under Trump/Ryancare, but the Senate GOPs decided to use the money and roll the dice.
The Senate GOP also includes several gimmicks to cut property taxes. In addition to sticking with the $180 million in tax dollars that Walker wanted to spend to buy down the state's property tax for Forestry operations, the Senate GOPs pay back WMC by paying off $239 million to get rid of the state's personal property tax, which generally hits equipment and other business possessions.
The Senate GOP also tried to take care of the possibility of higher property taxes resulting from fewer Lottery sales by using $45 million of General tax dollars to pay back retailers who sell Lottery tickets. This enables $45 million more in Lottery sales to go to property tax reductions. If that's all you care about, I suppose that's a good thing, but $465 million is a lot of tax dollars to shell out to reduce someone's bill, and with a $1 billion General Fund deficit looming for 2019, that is not likely to be sustainable.
3. The really bad- The Senate GOP plan gets rid of Walker's proposals to expand the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the state's Working Families Tax Credit. Both moves will raise taxes on lower-income workers. At the same time, this proposal gets rid of Wisconsin's Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which overwhelmingly benefits richer Wisconsinite's. This continues the 6-year trend of Walker/WISGOP tax cuts favoring the rich, and shows yet again who this group REALLY works for.
The same applies for provisions in the Senate GOP bill that expand K-12 school vouchers yet again. Not only does the Senate GOP raise voucher eligibility to families of 4 that make nearly $54,000, but they also have other giveaways like not allowing for incomes of current voucher families to be verified, and approving the setup of "virtual private schools", where a teacher instructs from a remote location.
Combine those giveaways to the voucher lobby with prior revelations that the voucher program is taking more money and students from K-12 districts than previously thought, and now vouchers are projected to take $36 million more in taxpayer dollars than what was in Walker's original budget. And almost all of that is "paid for" by funneling away money from public K-12 districts in Wisconsin.
Now, all of that money-funneling to vouchers may make GOP donors and puppetmasters like Betsy DeVos and Scott Jensen happy, but I'm betting most of the rest of the state would hate it. Especially when school property taxes rise to make up the difference.
So this Senate GOP bill goes well beyond the binge of borrowing for roads, and while it at least admits it needs some revenue to work out, it is still badly lacking and has plenty of partisan giveaways of taxpayer dollars. It should get tossed to the curb in favor of real solutions with real fubding, but I bet some of the bad plans in Section 2 and 3 end up in the final budget...whenever that document might get passed.