Evers Tinkers With Tax Cut
Okays $2 billion state income tax cut but delays when it goes into effect.
By using the diminished but still extensive partial veto power that Wisconsin governors wield, Gov. Tony Evers managed to tinker with the margins of the new 2021-2023 state budget — temporarily capturing a $700 million windfall, but also clawing back for the executive branch powers that Republican lawmakers had tried to assume for the Legislature.
In exercising his veto pen while signing the budget, Evers sought to temper some of the provisions written into the spending plan by the Republican majority that controls the Legislature and the powerful Joint Finance Committee (JFC).
The budget committee threw out many of the governor’s original proposals, adopted a few of them and rewrote others, many in more limited form, to produce the budget, which passed the Legislature in June with the support of all Republicans and a handful of Democrats.
Tax cut stays intact
Evers left in place a $2 billion cut in the state income tax, achieved by trimming the third of Wisconsin’s four tax brackets. The bracket covers single filers with incomes of just under $24,000 to a little more than $260,000, and lowers their income tax rate to 5.3% from 6.27%
Still, the tax cut remains tilted heavily toward the upper end of the income spectrum, according to calculations from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).
The Washington, D.C., research organization’s analysis separates the state’s population into five groups of equal size based on income. The 20% of state residents in the lowest income group aren’t in the tax bracket covered by the new tax cut. For the second-lowest-income 20% of the population, the average tax cut will be about $12 a year, and for the middle 20%, about $126 a year.
The biggest savings will go to the top two-fifths of the population, according to ITEP, with average tax cuts of more than $375 a year at the lower end of that group, up to $2,912 average annual savings to the state’s top 1% of earners.
Who will get Wisconsin’s new tax cut
|Income Group||Lowest 20%||Second 20%||Middle 20%||Fourth 20%||Next 15%||Next 4%||Top 1%|
|Income Range||Less Than
|Average Income in Group||$ 15,000||$ 34,000||$ 58,000||$ 93,000||$ 160,000||$ 355,000||$ 1,653,000|
|Tax Change as a % of Income||0.0%||0.0%||-0.2%||-0.4%||-0.6%||-0.6%||-0.2%|
|Average Tax Change||—||–$12||–$126||–$376||–$971||–$2,182||–$2,912|
|Share of Total Tax Cut||0%||1%||7%||21%||40%||24%||8%|
|Share of Families with Tax Cut||0%||27%||66%||86%||98%||99%||99%|
|Share of All Families with Tax Cut||55%|
|Share of Total Tax Cut Flowing to Top 5%||32%|
|Share of Total Tax Cut Flowing to Top 20%||72%|
All Wisconsin residents with incomes (projected, 2022)
SOURCE: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, June 2021
State cash flow boost
While Evers signed the tax cut, he delayed its effect with one of his 50 partial vetoes, eliminating a budget provision in which the Legislature had ordered the state Department of Revenue (DOR) to update the tables that the state uses to calculate how much is withheld from people’s paychecks starting in 2022.
The veto doesn’t change the tax cut, Evers pointed out. The rate will still be reduced for the third bracket, “and taxpayers will receive approximately $2 billion in individual income tax relief from that reduction in this biennium,” he stated in his veto message.
For now, however, the state will continue to withhold the funds based on the higher rate.
The effect of the veto is to boost the state’s cash flow by putting off the tax withholding change. But the impact is temporary. People whose state taxes are withheld at the old, higher rate are likely to be entitled to a refund at tax time when their taxes are calculated using the new, lower rate.
By using the current tax withholding tables, the state “will close the fiscal year with more cash because of it,” says Jason Stein of the Wisconsin Policy Forum. “But in the end, it’s going to return the money to people.”
Of course, he notes, that’s not guaranteed for any individual taxpayer, due to the ways people’s circumstances can vary.
With his veto, Evers asserted that changing the tables was within the power and the prerogative of the administration acting on its own, stating: “The secretary of the Department Revenue has the ability under current law to make these adjustments as appropriate and will assess whether and when these updates should be made within the full context of revenue collection trends and other state priorities.”
That observation reflected a common theme linking many of his budget vetoes: preventing lawmakers from shifting power and control away from his office and the agencies that make up the executive branch, held by Democrats, and vesting it in the Legislature, where Republicans hold the majority.
In that vein, Evers vetoed several mandates from the Legislature for reports and studies of agencies and programs, calling the requirements “burdensome and unnecessary.”
The governor also vetoed a provision directing a study on whether the state should convert its unemployment insurance program to pay laid-off workers less, and for fewer weeks, when the unemployment rate is low, and another provision requiring the program to implement drug testing for applicants. “The Department of Workforce Development’s efforts should be focused on assisting those who are unemployed or underemployed to obtain family-sustaining jobs rather than burdensome rule-making,” Evers wrote.
Other vetoes removed JFC stipulations on certain funding sources. In the Department of Natural Resources budget, for example, Evers deleted language directing a series of projects to be funded through the agency’s environmental fund appropriation.
With those vetoes, funding defaulted to the DNR’s conservation fund. The result, Evers said, “will preserve funds in the environmental fund to be used for much-needed environmental initiatives.”
Where the Legislature’s budget had sought to expand the state’s summer youth jobs program beyond Milwaukee, without increasing its funding, Evers vetoed the language, leaving the existing program in Milwaukee in place.
“It is unfortunate that the Legislature did not provide additional funding for this program to ensure that it could be expanded statewide without negatively impacting the youth who are served by the existing program,” his veto message stated. “If the Legislature is interested in partnering on a statewide expansion, I would welcome legislation that provides additional funding and authorization to expand the program statewide.”
Evers embraces income tax cut, delays its impact on paychecks was originally published by the Wisconsin Examiner.
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- Sen. Larson Statement on Gov. Evers’ Partial Budget Veto - State Sen. Chris Larson - Jul 8th, 2021
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Read more about 2021-2023 Wisconsin Budget here