After eight years of reforms, Wisconsin is in a great position. Our economy is strong, and unemployment continues to be at historic lows. Moreover, our state budget has a $2.4 billion surplus for the upcoming budget cycle. This healthy surplus has been achieved while K-12 schools are funded at the highest rate in our state’s history.
Such a large surplus should also be good news for taxpayers. A budget surplus means that you, the taxpayer, have paid more than is necessary to run government. I believe that a responsible portion of the surplus should be returned to taxpayers before it is spent unnecessarily by those in Madison.
On the campaign trail, Governor Evers pledged his support for a middle class tax cut. I couldn’t agree more. In one of our first actions, the legislature crafted a common-sense middle class tax cut bill, which I support and voted for. The measure would cut taxes by $340 million for individuals making under $100,000 and families making under $150,000. Those income levels were exactly what Governor Evers requested in his campaign promise. Within the first two months, the middle class tax cut was passed by both houses of the legislature and sent to Governor Evers for his signature.
Unfortunately, Governor Evers vetoed the tax cut. The sticking point? How to pay for it.
Legislative Republicans proposed to use a portion of the surplus to fund the tax cut. Facing a $2.4 billion surplus, it is entirely reasonable and responsible to send $340 million back to its rightful owners — the taxpayers. This would still leave plenty of money for increased spending on schools, roads, and other government programs.
On the other hand, Governor Evers demanded the tax cut be funded by a $500 million tax increase on manufacturers and farmers. We could not support this. Both manufacturing and agriculture are pillars of Wisconsin’s economy. When we have such a large surplus, it makes no sense to raise taxes on job creators and hardworking farmers.
Over the past year, manufacturing growth in Wisconsin was second only to Texas. Furthermore, the average salary of careers in manufacturing are at a family-sustaining level of $57,000, which far outpaces the average annual pay in Wisconsin by over $10,000. Now is not the time to unnecessarily raise taxes on job creators.
Agriculture is also vital to our state’s economy. Agriculture not only contributes over $88 billion to our economy, but also employs over 400,000, or nearly 12 percent of the workforce. Now is not the time to unnecessarily raise taxes on farmers.
I’m extremely disappointed Governor Evers vetoed our common-sense tax cut for middle class taxpayers. Sending a portion of the surplus back to taxpayers should be an easy decision.
However, Governor Evers’ demand to increase taxes is a reminder that many in Madison will always fight to grow government, even if it harms jobs and families. While we will continue to work to find common ground with the other side of the aisle, we won’t compromise our values and principles.
State Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, is speaker pro tempore of the Wisconsin State Assembly.