Wisconsin Assembly to vote on $3 billion income tax cut that Evers vows to veto
The Assembly also planned to vote on a constitutional amendment making it harder to raise taxes. Evers won't be able to stop the constitutional amendment which ultimately would require voter approval. Under the proposed amendment, a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Legislature would be required in order to raise taxes — a law 16 other states already have.
Additionally, the Assembly was expected to approve another constitutional amendment that would weaken the governor’s power by requiring the Legislature to sign off on spending federal funds. The governor has discretion to spend it without legislative approval.
In his first term, Evers was responsible for distributing billions in federal COVID-19 relief funds. Republican lawmakers renewed their criticism of his spending choices after a nonpartisan audit in December said Evers wasn’t transparent about how he decided where to direct $3.7 billion in aid.
Proposed constitutional amendments must pass two consecutive sessions of the Legislature and be approved by voters before taking effect. Requiring a two-thirds majority for raising taxes is being considered for the first time. The one requiring legislative sign-off on spending federal money passed last session. Evers has no say in the adoption of constitutional amendments.
The tax cut bill Evers has promised to veto would lower the state’s third income tax bracket from 5.3% to 4.4% and exclude the first $150,000 of a couple’s retirement income from taxes, which would apply to people over 67.
The measure would utilize the state's projected $4 billion budget surplus to pay for it.
“I’m not going to sign an irresponsible Republican tax cut that jeopardizes our state’s financial stability well into the future and the investments we need to be making today to address the real, pressing challenges facing our state,” Evers said last week.
Republican Rep. Terry Katsma said before the vote Tuesday that it was disappointing Evers had promised a veto even before the measure had a public hearing.
The Assembly does not have enough Republican votes to override a veto. If that happens as promised, Katsma said Republicans would then look at other options.
Evers’ budget director has warned that cutting taxes more than $432 million over the next two years could jeopardize about $2.5 billion in federal pandemic relief money the state has received. Republican Rep. Mark Born dismissed that concern, calling it a threat from the Evers administration that won’t happen.
Once approved by the Assembly on Tuesday, the tax cut bill would then head to the Senate which could pass it as soon as Thursday. That would then send it to Evers for his promised veto.
Evers has said he was open to reconsidering cutting taxes if Republicans would look at funding some of his priorities. Evers called a special session for the Legislature next week to spend more than $1 billion for child care, the University of Wisconsin System, worker shortage programs and other areas.
Republicans have instead introduced more modest child care proposals that the Assembly is slated to vote on Thursday.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the constitutional amendment related to legislative sign-offs and federal spending money was passed last session, making this the second vote on the amendment, not the first vote.