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Walker Calls on Lawmakers to Approve Tax Cuts in State of the State Address

Wisconsin workers would see more money in their paychecks, under a plan Gov. Scott Walker unveiled Wednesday night.

The governor called for using half of a nearly $1 billion surplus to cut income and property taxes. It was Gov. Walker’s fourth State of the State address.  It was also his most upbeat compared to previous years and lasted about an hour.

The governor says the state’s finances are in great shape and the economy is improving every day. He credited his economic development policies since he took office in 2011.

“A true commitment to real structural reforms for state and local government budgets led to our long term fiscal stability, meaningful tax cuts that keep more money in your pocket rather than requiring you to send it to Madison, changes to laws and regulations that make sense if you’re trying to start a business or find a job, and bipartisan investments and worker training are some of the driving forces behind the strong economic recovery,” Walker says.

Walker then unveiled his plans for spending a $900 million surplus. He called the initiative his “Blueprint for Prosperity,” and promised to reduce income taxes by nearly $100 million.

“Earlier today, I directed Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler to adjust withholding for state income taxes by $322.6 million so you can keep more of your hard earned paychecks. Starting in April, a typical working family of four will see $57.90 more in their paychecks each month,” Walker says.

Walker says he plans to use $400 million to reduce property taxes. He says the typical homeowner would see a $100 reduction on their next bill, nearly four times larger than the property tax relief passed last year.

The governor also wants to earmark $100 million for the state’s rainy day fund. He called for $35 million to be put toward job training, with the focus on several areas.

“First, investment in our technical colleges to eliminate waiting lists in high demand fields like manufacturing, agriculture and information technology. Second, we’ll help high school students get training in high demand jobs through dual enrollment programs between our high schools and technical colleges,” Walker says.

Walker says he'll call the legislature into special session Thursday, to begin work on the plan. Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson says he doubts Democrats will support the proposals. He says Democrats would have used the surplus to restore funding to education that Walker cut.

“If Gov. Walker had interest in a healthy, responsible budget he could do the following: return the money stolen from our children’s classrooms to make sure they’ll be ready to enter the 21st century economy, take decisive action to return investments to job training, reinvesting the 30 percent cut that Wisconsin’s technical colleges endured in 2011,” Larson says.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca says he’s concerned the tax cuts would eventually cause another budget shortfall.

“At a time of surplus, that’s a self inflicted wound that we shouldn’t have to absorb. I didn’t think anybody would want to have to return to structural deficits,” Barca says.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke issued a statement following Wednesday night’s speech. She thinks Governor Walker is painting an overly rosy picture of the state’s economy. She says she would use a good chunk of the surplus to pay down the state’s debt.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.