Tuesday, April 6, 2021

GOP bills to take stimulus dollars won't work, but Evers should use them to look better

While I understand that Governor Evers is unlikely to allow the WisGOP Legislature any say in what happens with the billions of stimulus dollars coming to the state, I do think we should look at the series of bills the GOP put out and had hearings on today. Partially for comedy, but also because perhaps Evers can call the bluff that the WisGOPs are playing, and see if the Republicans backpedal and make even bigger fools of themselves.

Let's start with the GOP bill that has a property tax rebate.
...the department of revenue shall distribute to each county or municipality described under par. (c) 1. an amount sufficient to make all the payments to eligible property owners in the county or municipality and the county or municipality shall make those payments directly to those property owners from the moneys received from the department. In this paragraph, “net property taxes” means an amount equal to the taxes levied on a taxpayer's real property, less the amount of the school levy tax credit distributed under s. 79.10 (4) that is attributable to that property.
The total given out would be $1,067,824,830, which is pretty specific, but I'd guess it is intended to be 10% of estimated property taxes paid for 2020. And the bill tries to get around ARPA's prohibition on using the money for "tax cuts" by sending the money to local governments, who then pay a "rebate" to the property taxpayer.

Of course, this bill gives ZERO to renters - of homes or business space. And Wisconsinites that own more expensive homes will be likely to get a larger property tax rebate. Both of these items expose this bill as a one-time gimmick, and a regressive one at that.

However, the WisGOPs do have another bill that would give aid to small businesses.
This bill requires the Department of Revenue to provide grants to businesses in this state that had total sales in 2019 of less than $7 million and suffered economic damage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also requires the governor to allocate $200 million from moneys received from the federal government pursuant to the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to make the grants.
Naturally this bill requires the Wisconsin DOR to send their plan on how they will hand out the grants to the GOP-dominated Joint Finance Committee, who could reject it if they don't like what they see (or just want to be dicks about it).

Evers is planning to give much more than the GOP's $200 million to small business, giving out another $46 million of left-over CARES funds to small businesses on Tuesday, and planning to use $600 million of the new stimulus funds on small business.

I find that funny as well, Tony.

Another bill directs some of the stimulus money for roads in a very specific way.
The bill requires the governor to allocate $308,519,800 of the funds accepted under the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for this program. The bill provides $144,000,000 for grants to counties. Not more than $2,000,000 of this amount may be paid to each county. The bill also provides $164,519,800 for grants to municipalities. Each municipality may be paid no more than the amount calculated by multiplying the number of miles of highways under the jurisdiction of the municipality for calendar year 2020 by $2,000. Under the bill, DOT may not provide grants under the program after December 31, 2024.
So every Wisconsin county gets $2 million under the WisGOP plan, no matter how few or how many people are in those counties, and how much traffic they have. Yes, this is your typical GOP handout to "self-reliant" rural areas they represent. The municipal grant also works that way.

That being said, Evers should counter by proposing to add to local road aids himself, except base it a lot more on how many people travel on those roads, and benefit from the roads. There certainly is a need to use state and federal funds to offset property taxes for roads, because in Tuesday's election, there are several referenda questions from communities that ask to go over their property tax limits to maintain roads and other services (Oneida County is an example) - even if many of those places have put in wheel taxes in recent years.

The GOP also are demanding that funds be set aside to construct public safety communications infrastructure and mental health beds, as well as directions to pay down debt and/or add certain types of capital projects. There's no reason the WisGOPs couldn't just use the regular state budget process to pay for these wants, but that's not what these bills are about, are they?

Nope, this is nothing more than a GOP pose bill intended to make it look like they want to invest in the state, but really wanting nothing more than to take power of these funds, and/or complain when Evers inevitably vetoes the bill.

But Evers can use these bills as a jumping-off point to have stimulus springboard into his own initaitives that on these subjects, with the advantage of the fact that they will be fairer and more effective. For exmaple, some stimulus funds are earmarked for capital projects and roads, and we know that over $2 billion will go to K-12 public schools in Wisconsin via the December and March stimulus packages.

So Evers can wrong-foot the GOP by using those stimulus funds to prompt a property tax cut of his own, while not being the entity that cuts taxes (and therefore, keeps with the wording of the bill). This can be done by allowing schools to have a slight increase in their revenue caps for the 20-21 and 21-22 school years, but have federal assistance pay for that increase, and then add in a boost in state funding. This results in more funding for schools as they adjust back from the COVID World AND reduces how much in property taxes has to be paid toward schools at the same time.

Then have it be a starting point for a more permanent reform that has property taxes be less of the funding equation when it comes to our public schools. Dare the WisGOPs to say no to that in the state budget, and given that stimulus funds can be used over 3 years, have that be a promise for the 2022 Governor's campaign as well.

So while the GOP isn't going to get their hands on the massive amount of stimulus funds heading to Wisconsin state government, that doesn't mean Governor Evers shouldn't use their proposals to turn our typical taxing and funding debates on their heads, and come out looking better.

1 comment:

  1. Sure enough, here comes JFC with a rushed public hearing on all 11 of the “handcuff Evers on stimulus” bills. So lame