Same goal, different methods: state Republicans counter Evers' middle-class tax cut plan

By Ben Meyer, WJFW

WAUSAU - Something said by a Republican state lawmaker on Thursday might come as a surprise. 

At a Wausau press conference, he said Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was right.

Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) and other Republicans agreed with Evers' plan to cut $340 million in middle class taxes.

They just want to do it differently from the Governor.

Late last month, the Walker administration reported Wisconsin had a surplus of more than $588 million. Assembly Republicans want to use part of that money to pay for a tax cut in 2020.

According to their numbers, the average middle class family would save more than $300.

"To me it makes sense. This is money that our taxpayers have paid in, and this is money that we look at as a surplus, [and] it should go back to our taxpayers," said Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield).

During the campaign, Evers proposed a similar tax cut. But he would pay for it by capping the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit, which he said benefits too many millionaires.

The method is different, but the $340 million figure is the same between Evers and Republicans.

"Gov. Evers was right. It's time for a middle-class tax cut. The way we go about it is going to achieve goals for both the Assembly Republicans and for the Governor at the same time," Krug said. "It proves that we can work together on some common-ground issues. It sets the stage for the rest of the session. I think that's the most important thing here today, is that we are going to find ways to work together."

Democratic lawmakers sounded open to negotiation on Thursday.

"I hope we can come to a compromise [on] what we should do with this surplus, if it is there, and what services are best to meet the needs of everyone in Wisconsin," said Rep. Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield).

Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), however, said she hoped move like this came through the state budget process. Republicans said they were seeking a standalone bill prior to the state budget's due date on July 1.

"Tony Evers has said he wants to cut taxes," Shankland said. "Why don't we do it through the budget process, so that we're fair and transparent, and we're funding it in a way that's sustainable long-term?"

The Evers administration pointed out the Republican plan would be a one-time tax cut using surplus money. It said the governor's plan is sustainable into the future.

"It is our hope that legislators who believe in protecting the taxpayers and our state's bottom line will support the governor's sustainable tax plan," Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in a statement.

The $588 million surplus figure was calculated by Walker's Department of Administration and announced in December.

But that number could change next week, as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau will come out with a new financial estimate.