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Wisconsin Gov. Evers opposes GOP flat income tax cut plan

Gov. Evers

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is promising to veto any flat income tax cut plan passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, favoring instead his proposal to reduce taxes for the middle class by 10%.

Evers, in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, came out against an idea being floated by Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu that would tap part of the state's projected $6.6 billion budget surplus to move toward a flat income tax rate.

“I don’t see that as something that I could support,” Evers told AP. “I believe that targeting the middle class is where we should be. We should continue to have a progressive tax system.”

LeMahieu and Republican supporters have defended the flat tax idea, saying that taxes would be lowered for all income levels, not just the highest earners.

“That’s very doable,” LeMahieu told AP last week.

Doing that would eliminate the state's highest tax bracket of 7.65% paid by individuals earning more than $280,950 a year and married joint filers earning more than $374,600. The lowest current income tax rate is 3.54%.

Evers said the tax cut plan he released in August as he was running for reelection is what he will include in the two-year state budget he delivers to the Legislature on Feb. 15. Under that plan, taxes would be cut $600 million a year, including by 10% for individuals earning less than $100,000 and families earning less than $150,000.

Evers’ proposal would also cap copays for insulin at $35, repeal the state’s minimum markup law in an attempt to lower gas prices, cut taxes for seniors on fixed incomes, expand property tax relief for veterans with disabilities and attempt to lower the cost of caregiving and child care.

Republicans in August rejected the Evers' proposal as a campaign ploy. Legislative Democrats, who don't have the votes to pass anything, are generally supportive of cutting taxes as Evers proposed and against a flat income tax as Republicans want.

“We are open to proposals that directly impact working families, middle class families that are seeing rising costs," Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Greta Neubauer said.

The Legislature will rewrite the Evers budget proposal between February and likely late June, before passing its own plan. In the last budget, Republicans eliminated more than $1 billion in tax increases Evers proposed and instead cut taxes by $3.4 billion. Evers signed that Republican plan and then campaigned on it in his successful reelection bid.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said earlier this month that taxes should be cut by at least $3.4 billion in the next budget. Evers, when asked if that was a reasonable target, said he believed that the last budget was a good one for taxpayers and he expects the next one to be similar.

“Hopefully we'll have a reasonable proposal (from Republicans),” Evers said.

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