Scott Walker today in his State of the State speech called for a new tax credit of $100 per child as the guv asked lawmakers to make sure checks show up before students start school this fall.
Walker said the tough decisions of the past eight years have paid off, creating a surplus.
“As I promised, when we have a surplus, we will give it back to you, the hardworking taxpayers. This is your reform dividend. You deserve it,” Walker said.
The plan would cost $122 million and be covered by the boost in the state’s surplus for the 2017-19 budget, which is now projected to be $385.2 million. That’s $137.5 million more than previously expected in the fall.
Assembly Minority Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, blasted the speech as “more like a going out of business sale,” saying he couldn’t take Walker’s child tax credit proposal seriously.
“It sounds like he literally wants to send $100 to parents for their kids before the election,” he said.
The Walker administration said the proposal would impact 671,000 households this year.
Initially, the credit would be a sales tax rebate. The Department of Revenue would notify those who had children under the age of 18 in 2017 they may be eligible and direct them to a state website to apply. Those eligible would have a window between May 15 and June 30 to file a claim to receive their cash payment.
Going forward, it would be an additional $100 credit per child on filers’ income taxes.
Walker also pushed legislative leaders, who plan to adjourn in less than two months, to approve a series of initiatives he has rolled out in recent days:
*a welfare package that would require able-bodied, working age adults to either work at least 30 hours a week or enroll in job training to be eligible for food stamps. He framed it as part of an effort to get more people into the workforce.
*an education plan that would provide additional state aid for small, rural schools, while allowing low-spending districts to raise more money through property taxes.
*a three-pronged healthcare plan he announced over the weekend that includes a reinsurance program Walker’s administration says would help control health care costs for some 200,000 state residents who purchase their coverage through the individual marketplace.
*a plan to close the state’s troubled youth prisons in northern Wisconsin and instead open five regional facilities.
*new recommendations from a panel of experts to combat opioid addiction.
*efforts to help small businesses that includes advertising in other states to attract potential workers to Wisconsin. The package also includes a $50 million Rural Economic Development Fund that would annual give out grants to support the development of new businesses and expansion of small companies. Walker rolled out that proposal, which would be administered through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the morning of his annual speech.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he’s “very confident” the Assembly would be able pass by the end of session the bills Walker highlighted in his speech.
Asked how the state would afford the priorities Walker outlined, Vos, R-Rochester, pointed to the $385.2 million projected budget surplus.
“It’s a good thing that we have such a huge surplus that rather than keeping it in Madison, we’re going to send it back to the people who paid it,” Vos said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, though, took a more measured approach, saying he didn’t want to predict how each provision would play out without getting a better read on his members.
Still, he said his caucus had a “good discussion” on JFC Co-chair John Nygren’s bill for rural districts that would boost sparsity aid and help low-revenue districts. The Juneau Republican predicted that it, along with the welfare-related legislation, could be on the agenda when the Joint Finance Committee meets at the end of this month.
And he said once the Legislative Fiscal Bureau works through the numbers on the new proposals the guv unveiled today, his chamber would get a better sense of how much money is available to spend.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said Walker is co-opting Dem ideas for his own and his speech proves he’s a political opportunist willing to say or do anything to get re-elected.
She said Dems have pushed a childcare tax credit that Walker has ignored, but now the guv is proposing sending taxpayers checks just before schools starts and voters head to the polls. She joked Republicans should have given the official response to the State of the State address because so many of Walker’s proposals began as Dem ideas.
“He has opposed them. He has cut them. He has fought against them. He has worked to dismantle them,” Shilling said.
Walker frequently sought to contrast the present with eight years ago, when he said the state was going backward. He touted a property tax bill for the median-valued home that will be smaller this year than the ones sent in 2010. He pointed to an unemployment rate of 3 percent — tied for lowest in state history — compared to 9.2 percent a decade ago. Walker said his administration has invested $24 billion into transportation over eight years, which is $3 billion more than over the same period of time under Dem Gov. Jim Doyle, who left office in early 2011.
The guv touted a series of figures that will be themes in his re-election bid this fall: a boost in per-pupil state aid to schools of $200 this year and another $204 the next; the elimination of state property taxes; and a six-year freeze on in-state, undergraduate tuition at the UW-System.
Polling on a planned Foxconn plant in Racine County has been mixed with the $3 billion state incentive package and other government incentives that push the overall price for taxpayers to some $4.5 billion.
Still, Walker touted his administration landing Foxconn, saying the Taiwanese manufacturer’s planned campus will require 10,000 constructions workers “from all over the state.” He also said the company will spend roughly $1.4 billion a year with Wisconsin businesses, encouraging small companies to sign up on a state website as a possible supplier for the company. And he suggested it would be another reason for graduates to stay in Wisconsin.
Several of the Dem candidates looking to challenge Walker this fall said voters shouldn’t believe the guv on Foxconn or his election-year promises.
“Election Year Walker got taken to the cleaners in the Foxconn deal,” said Matt Flynn, a Milwaukee attorney and former state Dem chair.
By Briana Reilly and Alex Moe