Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — both reelected to lead their caucuses Thursday — listed priorities including tax cuts and universal school choice for the next legislative session.
LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, told WisPolitics.com he would like to work toward a flat income tax in the upcoming session, perhaps by cutting in half the current number of tax brackets.
LeMahieu said in an interview ahead of leadership elections that tax cuts will be a priority for his caucus with the state’s budget surplus heading into 2023-25 expected to top $5 billion. That includes eliminating the personal property tax that businesses pay.
LeMahieu said it was too early to say exactly what a tax package might look like from his caucus. Still, priorities would include lowering the top rates after back-to-back budgets that dropped the lowest rates.
He also raised the prospect of going to two tax brackets from the current four. He said that could move the state toward a flat tax without the possibility of raising taxes on those in the lowest brackets.
The income tax brackets now range from 3.54 percent to 7.65 percent.
“I think that’s a good way to attract people to Wisconsin, a good way to keep people in Wisconsin, and that can be a small step in helping the workforce shortage that we’re experiencing,” LeMahieu said in the phone interview.
The Senate GOP leadership team will be largely unchanged next session. Along with LeMahieu returning, others who were reelected to their spots today were: President Chris Kapenga, of Delafield; President Pro Tempore Pat Testin, of Stevens Point; Assistant Majority Leader Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac; and Caucus Chair Van Wanggaard, of Racine.
Sen. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, will be the only new member of leadership, winning the open caucus vice-chair post.
Senate Republicans picked up outgoing Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley’s seat in the 25th district in Tuesday’s elections, pushing their majority to 22-11.
Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters after Thursday’s leadership election he’s willing to boost education funding as Tony Evers wants but would insist the guv in exchange agree to universal school choice.
But he said that he hasn’t yet defined what universal choice would entail.
The state has three voucher programs for Milwaukee, Racine and statewide that include income restrictions. There is also a limit in the statewide program on the percentage of a school district’s students that can participate. That limit is scheduled to hit 10 percent in 2015-26 before there is no longer a cap.
Vos said he planned to talk to his caucus to reach consensus before engaging the Senate and possibly Evers, the former state schools superintendent. The speaker noted the Legislature sent Evers a bill this session designed to boost reading scores only for him to veto it.
“If he wants more money for schools, we have to have some reform along the way. We can’t just write a blank check,” Vos said.
With reelection as speaker, Vos continues his record run in the post. He was first elected speaker for the 2013-14 session.
Assembly Republicans also elected:
*Rep. Tyler August, of Lake Geneva, majority leader;
*Rep. Kevin Petersen, of Waupaca, speaker pro tempore;
*Rep. Jon Plumer, of Lodi, assistant majority leader;
*Rep. Rob Summerfield, of Bloomer, caucus chair;
*Rep. Cindi Duchow, of Pewaukee, caucus vice-chair;
*Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, of Tomah, caucus secretary.
*Rep. Treig Pronschinske, R-Mondovi, sergeant-at-arms.
Plumer, Summerfield, VanderMeer and Pronschinske are all new members to the leadership team.
Assembly Republicans, who expanded their majority by three seats to 64-35. Those pickups were in the 73rd, 74th and 21st districts.