Having rejected a previous Republican-authored attempt, Gov. Tony Evers unveiled draft legislation Wednesday to carry out the personal property tax repeal that GOP lawmakers had tried to link to the 2021-2023 state budget this summer.
The draft bill includes a new state aid program for local governments to replace the revenue they would lose with the repeal of the tax.
The property tax repeal was among the last steps that the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee took as the Republican majority completed their rewrite of the budget in late June. The tax is only assessed to businesses, covering property other than real estate, and it has already been reduced by a series of exemptions.
That repeal legislation was written as a separate bill outside the budget. At the time, the GOP lawmakers said they were trying to avert the possibility that Evers would block the repeal or rewrite it with his budgetary partial veto power.
Nevertheless, Evers vetoed the stand-alone repeal bill, saying that he objected to the Republicans’ process. When he signed the state budget, however, he left in place money that had been set aside to replenish local governments for their losses due to the repeal. Democrats in the Legislature had objected that there were no guarantees for continued replacement funding in the future.
In his announcement Wednesday of the new repeal bill, co-authored by Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) and Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska), Evers said the original repeal had “problematic ramifications for railroad taxes and the manufacturing and agriculture credit, as well as the potential for the state to lose millions in taxes owed by utility companies.”
The new bill was written to avoid those hurdles, the governor said. It includes language requiring the state to pay local governments a sum annually that equals what they last received in personal property tax revenue, increased each year in line with the consumer price index (CPI).
In a statement later Wednesday, State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), an author of the vetoed Republican bill, dismissed the Evers bill as “a political shield” to hide his rejection of the earlier repeal legislation.
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