By Nora G. Hertel, Wausau Daily Herald
WAUSAU — Gov. Scott Walker flew into the Wausau Downtown Airport briefly Wednesday on what he calls a Property Tax Relief Tour, touting decreases in technical college taxes across the state.
Walker and the Legislature have directed $400 million to technical colleges to allow them to reduce the property taxes they pull from communities.
"In my own community where municipal taxes went up a bit, the reduction we put in place with the technical college helped offset that," Walker said about his property taxes on his home in Wauwatosa.
The boost allowed all 16 technical colleges in the state to decrease their levies, including a $100 reduction for a typical household around Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, Walker said. His aide said the governor's office used a $150,000 home to represent a typical home for tax-savings calculations.
"There's obviously some exceptions," Walker said. "Sometimes a local government may have passed a local referendum. Sometimes a home may have gone through a reassessment. That's something that's done at the local level. That's out of the control of the state."
But Assembly assistant minority leader Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, said increasing municipal taxes is a result of decisions at the state level.
"Your city taxes are going up because the state has cut shared revenue in several budgets," Shankland said.
Wausau city taxes are set to increase 1.8 percent and other local municipalities will see increases, as well.
Walker brought a chart showing property taxes if they continued to increased at levels from before he took office. His administration has calculated typical families will pay $816 less over four years since he's been in office than if taxes had grown at their previous trajectory.
"Earlier this year we had a surplus. We took that surplus and put ... $400 million into the property tax, specifically through the technical colleges, another $100 million to drive down income taxes," Walker said.
State Republicans and Democrats disagree on how surpluses are calculated.
"There actually is no surplus," Shankland said. She referred to a PolitiFact review of Walker's claim debunking it as an estimate with specific parameters. "We have to cut something or they'll have to raise taxes."
Walker plans to continue to prioritize property tax cuts this term.
"We want to make sure that we add more resources for property tax relief going forward," Walker said.
Walker had already stopped in La Crosse and Eau Claire and continued on to Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay.
The governor also responded to a question about Jeb Bush's announcement that he's considering a presidential run, similarly vague to Walker's own admission that he's considering a bid. Walker said he'll ultimately decide based on what his family and the state need.
"My focus is and will continue to be on the state of Wisconsin," Walker said. "The reason why I'm often considered on these national lists isn't because of a speech or my last name, but because of the things that we've done here in Wisconsin."
Nora G. Hertel can be reached at 715-845-0665. Find her on Twitter as @nghertel.