Sunday, February 12, 2023

Evers tax cut plan revealed. Lower and working classes, vulnerable pops helped. Richest pay more

Along with shared revenues and other spending issues, a big item to sort out with the upcoming Wisconsin state budget talks is not IF there will be tax cuts, but who benefits from those tax cuts. Governor Evers released his plans over the weekend (with more details to come at the official budget release on Wednesday), and let's take a look at them.

Let us start with a reminder of the mind-boggling amount of money that there is to play with in this budget. Based on recent revenue estimates from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and budget requests from state agencies, there is a projected $7 billion in the bank to start the 2023-25 budget, and it would grow from there.

So plenty of room to work with. The Wisconsin State Journal did a deep dive into what Evers wants, with the biggest part of the plan estimated to be around $418 million for this year, and directly targeted to low and middle-income Wisconsinites.
Evers’ proposal would create a nonrefundable Family and Individual Reinvestment Credit to cut taxes by 10% for individuals earning $100,000 or less a year and married filers making $150,000 or less. The credit would gradually phase out for single filers making between $100,000 and $120,000 annually and for married filers earning between $150,000 and $175,000 a year.
Ironically, this won't do anything for 2-income earner couples like my wife and I, but don't forget that the upper-middle-class and above were the largest recipients of the tax cut Evers and the Legislature agreed to in 2021, as that lowered the 2nd-highest income tax rate for all income between approximately $24,500 and $267,500 (single) and $32,500 and $365,000 (married). So this evens some of out the benefits of the 2021 tax cut.

Evers also released plans for tax cuts intended to help Wisconsinites caring for family members, whether that care be for adults or children, and to expand credits for lower-income individuals and veterans.
The governor’s proposal would also increase the state’s supplement to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit for working families with children. Under the plan, the percentage of the federal credit that filers can claim would increase from 4% to 16% for filers with one dependent and from 11% to 25% for filers with two dependents. The average tax relief for those eligible to receive the credit would be more than $300 annually, according to the governor’s office.

The state’s Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit would also expand under Evers’ proposal, from 50% of the federal credit to 100% starting in tax year 2023. Most individuals eligible for the credit would receive up to $600 for one qualifying individual’s expenses or up to $1,200 for two or more qualifying individuals’ expenses.

Evers’ plan would also spend $195 million over the biennium to create a caregiver tax credit for those caring for a family member; increase the maximum eligible household income threshold for the Homestead Credit, which provides tax cuts to lower-income residents; and expand the Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit.
There's also another tax break intended to repeal the state's personal property tax, which is levied on equipment and other business-related assets. Local governments will get $200 million in state tax dollars to make up for that, and to try to prevent homeowners from feeling more of the burden of property taxes as a result.

Put all that together, and you have nearly $1 billion in total tax cuts in year 1. But Evers also is calling for other provisions that would raise taxes on the richest Wisconsinites to offset some of those costs. A couple of these are items he has called for in the past, but has had turned down by the GOP Legislature (and likely will again).

The first is that Evers is again looking to limit the Manufacture and Agriculture Tax Credit, a notorious giveaway that was put in place by Scott Walker and the WisGOP Legislature a decade ago. Evers' plan would still allow manufacturers to get the credit for "the first $300,000 in qualified production activities income for each firm qualifying for the credit," but end the tax break after that. Ag businesses wouldn't be affected at all, according to Evers' press release.

As State Senator Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) recently noted, the M&A tax cut hasn't done much for grow manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin, but it does keep growing the amount of tax cuts for rich owners, and others in the state who choose to take advantage.

And the LFB analysis also mentions that the "manufacturing" part of the M&A giveaway in particular continues to grow both in dollar amount, and in how it heavily favors mega-millionaires and big firms over small businesses.

Evers also wants to keep the richest Wisconsinites (singles making more than $400,000 and married-joint filers over $533,000) from getting an extra write-off on long-term capital gains, which is estimated to raise over $185 million next year and $154 million in the year after that. Given that rich folks get major tax breaks on long-term capital gains at the federal level, I think they'd get by. But I also don't see the flat-tax Republicans approving anything that'll raise taxes on their oligarch donors the rich.

Long way to go, but you can see the markers being thrown down. Evers will ask for tax cuts on lower-income and working-class Wisconsinites, and give breaks to targeted, vulnerable populations. GOPs will have most of their tax break go to richer Wisconsinites, and will spend down the surplus in a much quicker time frame. Given that we have a "secular surplus" of around $1 billion right now, Evers' tax cut would still result in a balanced budget year-to-year, from what I can add up.

Lots of spin and debate to have as well, so know the numbers being thrown around, and pick the best solution to a great fiscal situation.

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