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Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly Republican leaders spell out plans

Chuck Quirmbach
Jeff Mayers, of WisPolitics.com (left), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (center) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (right), at the beginning of Tuesday's WisPolitics forum in Madison.

Republican leaders of the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly are spelling out their plans for the newly-announced projected state budget surplus.

That pot of money could hit 6-point-six billion dollars by the end of the current budget cycle next July, according to the latest estimates from the Evers Administration. Just months ago, the projected surplus was at 5 billion dollars.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu of Oostburg, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who's from Racine County, at a WisPolitics forum Tuesday say that as a new budget is drafted this winter, they'll be pushing for tax cuts.

In fact, LeMahieu says he wants a nationally-controversial idea to come to Wisconsin—a flat tax—under which everyone or most everyone pays the same rate, regardless of income.

"Yes, work on all the three brackets, work on deductions so all taxpayers get a tax cut, but we definitely need to drive down our top rates. We're sort of an island here with our top tax rate in Wisconsin. We need to drive that down and beat our neighbors," LeMahieu says.

Later, we asked LeMahieu about longstanding national criticism that a flat tax mainly benefits the wealthy.

"They get a substantial cut, but they pay the vast majority of income taxes in Wisconsin," LeMahieu says.

It's unclear whether Wisconsin will join states like Iowa to approve a flat tax.

The press office of Gov. Tony Evers referred us to recent remarks from the reelected Democrat.

For example, WisPolitics reported last week that Evers says he can't envision signing a budget that would lower the state's top income tax rates. Evers also said the budget he'll introduce early next year will be looking at the middle class.

A few months ago, during the campaign, Evers proposed a 10% tax cut for some middle-income residents and expanding the Homestead Credit to more lower-wage workers. Republicans refused to take up the proposals.

Speaker Vos says that he and Evers spoke by phone for five minutes Tuesday and will set a date for a meeting. A rare in-person meeting.

"It is the Majority Leader and the Speaker sitting down with the Governor and finding common ground," Vos says.

Something that may still be a tall order, but unlike some other state budgets, the two sides are playing with a projected huge surplus instead of facing a big deficit.

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