MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) — The news Wisconsin is now expected to collect over $4.4 billion in tax revenues over the next three years is a “golden opportunity” for lawmakers on both sides to spend it on their priorities, according to a new report.
The nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum released a report that offers insight that lawmakers could use the unprecedented windfall the state is projected to receive to address some of the longstanding issues the state faces, direct resources to citizens and businesses, along with reducing taxes.
However, deciding how to spend the anticipated surplus will depend whether or not Republicans and Gov. Tony Evers can reach an agreement.
“It opens up possibilities we may never see in our careers,” said Jason Stein, research director at the Wisconsin Policy Forum. “It’s a moment where people across the political spectrum can get something they like, but only if they work with one another.”
A memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released on Monday, June 8, states Wisconsin is projected to see $4.4 billion in tax collections through mid-2023, a larger surplus of funds than previous estimates. This money comes on top of the $2.5 billion Wisconsin will receive from the federal coronavirus relief package.
The state also expects to collect $19.25 billion in general fund taxes in this fiscal year 2021, a remarkable increase of nearly 10% over 2020. It’s the largest increase since 2000, and this year will mark the second largest since 1984, according to the report.
The billions of dollars can open up opportunities the state hasn’t seen in decades, but for now, Republicans and Gov. Evers remain at odds on how to spend it.
Republicans want to provide tax relief to Wisconsinites, while Gov. Evers is calling for an increase in education funding.
“The vast majority of the money, if not all of the money, should really go toward paying down taxes,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), earlier this week. “The last thing we need to do is to take more (money) from people who can spend it on their families.”
The Forum’s report also notes that lawmakers could use some of the money to address Republicans’ budget proposal that puts K-12 schools at risk of losing $2.3 billion in federal stimulus aid because it spends far less than it needs to meet federal standards.
Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), a co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said Thursday they will find a solution to the funding issues, but didn’t further explain how.
“We have a variety of options,” Born said.
It’s also possible that lawmakers could find compromise on revamping the school funding formula, invest in broadband or replacing lead pipes with the new revenues, Stein said.
“This is an opportunity to think bigger,” said Stein. “You would think getting good news would make everything easier, but in a paradoxical way it can make it harder, because suddenly everyone has a chance to address a problem.”