Well today, we found out through the Journal-Sentinel's Jason Stein that the Senate GOP is working out a K-12 plan of their own. Like the Assembly GOP, the Senate GOP plans would push more money toward school districts with low revenue and spending limits, but it wouldn’t use property taxes to do it.
GOP senators have come up with an education framework that would use state money to help those districts — meeting part of the Assembly's goal — while also accommodating Walker's target of holding the line on property taxes.If the Senate GOP wants to trade state funds for extra funding and keep property taxes down, that makes sense in theory. Except there’s one big thing missing- THERE’S NO STATE MONEY TO GIVE OUT.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) confirmed the plan and said he and his colleagues are still discussing how much state money to pour into it.
"It's the same concept that the Assembly had targeted," Fitzgerald said. But "the state would pay for it."
As I’ve mentioned several times throughout this budget process, Scott Walker’s original 2017-19 budget had only $12 million in breathing room built into it, and a $1 billion deficit looms for the next budget. And with the Legislative Fiscal Bureau saying last month that they saw no need to increase revenue projections, and some expenses being re-estimated to end up costing more than what was projected in the budget, that tightness hasn’t subsided over the 4 months this budget has been debated.
Now, maybe some funds can be cleared up by getting rid of Gov Walker’s stupid plans for a sales tax holiday, and perhaps legislators could avoid losing $200 million in revenue to give a $1-a-week income tax cut. And maybe that extra money is enough to have the state backfill this revenue limit increase to low-spending schools.
But we haven't heard that the WisGOPs are going to dump the $1-a-week income tax gimmick, and even if they do, using state money to give relief to low-revenue districts means extra spending will be projected in the next budget (and there already isn’t enough state funding to pay for what's already on the books, let alone more). So there’s a connected shoe to drop here on taxes, either in the 2017-19 budget talks, or in the next 2 years. Because the math tells you that there is no way that WisGOP can continue all of these pre-election property tax handouts and the related state spending increases without raising taxes on someone in some other fashion.
That part of the shell game is what we have to watch for in these coming weeks, because that’s likely to be buried in some late-night maneuver that WisGOP isn’t going to want to promote. I’m not seeing how else they can pull off their big talk of “lower taxes and more spending.”