(The Center Square) – The split over whether to spend or save began the instant Wisconsin lawmakers learned the state will see an “unprecedented” $4.4 billion more from taxpayers.
The state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau on Tuesday reported the state is expected to take in $4.4 billion more than anticipated.
Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic lawmakers said Wisconsin should spend the money.
“Now is not the time to halt the investments driving our success,” Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh said. “There is no excuse for Wisconsin to skimp on core investments that benefit our state, drive our economy and create opportunity for Wisconsin. We must keep our foot on the gas, fund the priorities and investments in Gov. Evers’ Badger Bounceback Budget.”
The governor’s office on Tuesday said those priorities include roads and schools.
But the Republicans who control the Legislature, and who hold the reins when it comes to drafting the new state budget, say this is not the time to spend more.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally reform our tax code and provide transformational tax relief for Wisconsinites,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said. “Hard-working taxpayers gave the state a massive surplus. We will take this moment to consider ways to significantly reduce the tax burden on workers and main street businesses and pay off state debt to save taxpayers long into the future.”
He’s not the only one talking about giving the money back to taxpayers.
“By eliminating entire tax brackets and categories, we can return a portion of this unprecedented surplus to the taxpayers, set the stage for even more long-term economic growth, and continue showing that lower taxes means higher revenues,” Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, said.
CJ Szafir, president at the Institute for Reforming Government, said giving the money back to taxpayers can actually help strengthen some of the governor’s priorities.
“The Governor should stop playing political games with federal funds, work with the Legislature to reduce the financial burden on Wisconsin businesses and families by refunding taxpayer dollars, and help kids recover from the education they continue to be denied in many areas of the state,” Szafir said in a statement.
But the unprecedented surplus is also coming with a warning.
“Do not be fooled,” Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said. “First, all of this money will need to be paid back. Second, I believe we are on the verge of significant inflation, which will decrease the value of each dollar. This is a temporary jump in tax revenue – sound financial planning would require this money is not spent on more government programs but returned to the taxpayer. There is no magic money tree, folks.”
Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the $4.4 billion spike is expected to drive the state’s surplus, at the end of the 2021-23 budget, to more than $5 billion.
Reposted from The Center Square with permission.