Wisconsin Public Radio

Evers Wants Voucher Costs on Tax Bills

New governor’s budget will include showing cost of private school vouchers on property tax bills.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jan 3rd, 2019 10:31 am
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Tony Evers. Photo from Tony for Wisconsin.

Tony Evers. Photo from Tony for Wisconsin.

Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers said Wednesday that he wants Wisconsin property tax bills to show how much people are paying to support private voucher schools.

The plan is one of many Evers will introduce as part of his first state budget, which will be the first proposed by a Democratic governor in Wisconsin in eight years.

Given the recent history of divided government and the recent push by Republicans to restrict Evers’ powers, he’ll likely find himself at odds with legislators on a wide array of issues, from taxes, to schools and roads.

While that could also carry over to Evers’ voucher schools plan, he said it would start a “good conversation” around education funding in Wisconsin.

“At some point in time as a state, we have to figure out whether we can afford two or three separate allocations of public schools,” Evers said in an interview Wednesday. “People in Wisconsin don’t know how much school districts are losing because of vouchers and how much is being deducted from their aid. They need to know that so that we can as a state have a good discussion about what’s involved with the voucher program.”

Democrats proposed a similar bill in 2017 but it died in the Legislature.

Tax Cuts

Evers said his budget would include the income tax cut he proposed toward the end of his race for governor.

Evers’ plan would cut income taxes by 10 percent for people who earn up to $100,000 and families that earn up to $150,000, a move his campaign estimated would cost state government about $340 million.

Evers said he would pay for the tax cut by scaling back Wisconsin’s Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit so that it only covers the first $300,000 of a person’s or business’ income.

Republican Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said recently his members would be open to the tax cut but made no mention of scaling back the tax credit to fund it.

“I’m appreciative of Sen. Fitzgerald’s interest in our plan, but he only took only half of our plan,” Evers said. “We believe that the manufacturers and agricultural tax credits are too lucrative.”

Evers would not characterize his tax plan as an “either or” proposal he’d reject if it didn’t include both the tax cut and the scaled back tax credit.

“No, I’m just saying we have to find a way to pay for it,” Evers said.

Federal Medicaid Money

Evers said his budget would demonstrate a clear break from Gov. Scott Walker‘s administration in the way that it funds BadgerCare, specifically by expanding it to receive increased federal funding.

“When it comes to taking the Medicaid money, that will be part of the budget,” Evers said. “That’s what we promised.”

The increased Medicaid funding was first made possible by the federal Affordable Care Act. Walker has rejected it each year, arguing it could leave the state in a bind should the ACA and its federal guarantees go away.

The decision has resulted in a net loss to the state of more than $1 billion in federal funding, according to the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office. The budget office also found expanding BadgerCare coverage to people who earn up to 133 percent of the poverty level would generate roughly $200 million in increased federal funding each year.

Transportation

Evers said his budget would also have “at least the beginning of a solid transportation policy” in Wisconsin, though he would not say what it will include.

Evers said Craig Thompson, his transportation secretary, would help come up with ideas for how to pay for roads. Thompson was previously the director of the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association, a group that represents road-builders and road-building unions among others.

“He’s going to bring people together and provide me recommendations for me to consider,” Evers said.

Thompson’s nomination has come under fire from some Republicans who say his affiliation with road builders should disqualify him from the position. The criticism is noteworthy because the state Senate, led by Republicans, will need to confirm Thompson’s nomination.

Evers said he did not think Thompson’s confirmation was in doubt.

“I don’t believe so,” Evers said. “He knows the Legislature. He knows Republicans. He knows Democrats. He’s been in the game a long time.”

School Funding

Evers said his budget would be built around public education funding, and would fulfill many of the ideas he’d proposed over his nearly nine years leading the state Department of Public Instruction.

That includes a $600 million increase in special education funding and $1.4 billion total in school spending.

“Everything I talked about during the campaign will be in my budget,” Evers said.

Evers will be sworn in Monday. He’ll likely introduce his first state budget in February.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Evers Wants Property Tax Bills To Show Cost Of Voucher Schools was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

More about the 2019-2021 Wisconsin Budget

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