Republican Sen. Devin LeMahieu speaks at a Senate floor session in September. LeMahieu proposed an amendment on Friday, Oct. 13, that replaces all the items in a workforce-related bill that Gov. Tony Evers proposed in August, including funds Evers propose to support child care providers. (Screenshot | WisEye)
The Wisconsin Senate’s Republican leader put out a top-to-bottom rewrite Friday afternoon of the workforce bill Gov. Tony Evers proposed in August that replaces every item in the original $1 billion package with a $2.5 billion tax cut that Evers has already vetoed once.
The Senate committee that was assigned the legislation is scheduled to vote Monday morning on the bill and the GOP amendment. The vote is being conducted by paper ballot, with no in-person meeting or debate among the committee members.
Evers’ chief spokesperson called the proposal “embarrassing” and “completely unserious,” and the leader of the state Senate Democrats called it “a partisan, conservative wish list.”
To address what child care advocates have described as a looming collapse of child care services in the state, the Republican substitute amendment replaces the $365 million the Evers administration has proposed to support child care providers over the next two years with an increase in the state’s child care tax credit.
In a statement announcing the amendment, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostberg) said the tax credit increase would be worth up to $5,200 for a family with two children in child care.
The centerpiece of the substitute amendment to the original bill is another attempt to cut the state’s second-highest tax rate to 4.4% from 5.3%. According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the incomes of taxpayers in that bracket range from $27,000 to $304,000 for single filers.
“Governor Evers has said that he would provide tax relief for the middle class in exchange for state-level investments in the child care industry,” LeMahieu said. “We hope he keeps his word.”
Calculations from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington, D.C., on an identical tax cut that Republicans proposed in August found that nearly two-thirds of the savings would go to the highest paid 20% of Wisconsin taxpayers with average incomes of $304,000.
The rest of the Republican substitute amendment introduced Friday includes a host of proposals that have also been the subject of individual bills, including a number that Evers has vetoed.
Several target the state’s professional licensing agency, the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).
Licensing delays at DSPS have been the focus of criticism from Republican lawmakers over the last two years. Democratic lawmakers, the department and even some of the professions affected by those delays have protested that lawmakers have ignored the need to increase staff at the department to handle a burgeoning demand from license applicants.
Other proposals in the amendment cover the state’s unemployment insurance program. Earlier this year Republicans passed a series of bills that would expand the number of reasons a person could be kicked off unemployment insurance; Evers vetoed them.
No part of the original Evers proposal, which was the subject of a public hearing Wednesday, remains in the LeMahieu amendment.
Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) the Senate minority leader, who had signed on as a coauthor to the original special session SB-1, removed her name from the bill effective Thursday.
“While I am disappointed, I am not surprised that Senate Republicans have taken a bill that is widely popular among Wisconsinites and turned it into a partisan, conservative wish list,” Agard said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“This is an embarrassing response after Republicans have had over two months to consider Gov. Evers’ comprehensive workforce plan to prevent a looming child care crisis — a plan they refuse to support for reasons they won’t publicly explain,” said Britt Cudaback, Evers’ communications director, Friday afternoon.
Cudaback said the governor’s proposal consisted of investments to address “our generational workforce challenges,” including the loss of child care facilities with the end of the federally funded Child Care Counts support program.
“This is a completely unserious proposal from Republicans who are wholly out of touch with the challenges and needs of our state,” she said.
This report was updated to include the vote scheduled for Monday morning on the legislation.
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