Evers signs new budget; touts $2 billion tax cut

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 8:18 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2021 at 11:44 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Gov. Tony Evers signed the new $87 billion biennial state budget , which will fund the government for the next two years, but not before making some changes first.

Appearing at an elementary school in Whitefish Bay Thursday morning, Evers touted the state’s recovery effort from the coronavirus pandemic, an unemployment rate he described as one of the lowest in the nation, and a $2.9 billion budget surplus before going on to say he will sign the budget bill overall, making some line-item vetoes.

Evers used the announcement to highlight a tax cut that his administration says will cut taxes for middle-class families by 10 percent. The governor recounted promising a tax cut for middle income earners, saying, “Today I’m keeping my word. I’m signing one of the largest tax cuts in history.”

“I made a promise when I ran for governor—I promised I would cut taxes for middle-class families by 10 percent. Today, I am keeping my word,” Evers continued. The Evers Administration estimates the legislation will provide approximately $2 billion in individual income tax relief over the next two years and another $1 billion in savings past that.

The budget passed by the Republican-led legislature had called for a larger $3.4 billion tax cut, a fact the Wisconsin Assembly Republicans highlighted in on Twitter, in a statement retweeted by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), accusing the governor of wanting to taxes by a billion dollars in his original budget.

According to Evers office, more than 1.6 million taxpayers in Wisconsin will see their tax bill go down. It also clarified that, when combined with other, earlier reductions, that number jumps by another 800,000 taxpayers. He noted in his speech how the first piece of legislation passed by lawmakers and signed into law this session had been a nearly half-billion tax cut for families affected by COVID-19.

State Revenue Secretary Peter Barca said the average household making $61,000 would see a tax break of $488 in this tax year, and bout $975 over the next two years.

Evers, who served as the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction prior being elected to the governor’s mansion, also pointed out that the new budget would hit the two-thirds mark for school funding, providing $685 million in net general and categorical school aid. The governor’s office says that includes more than $100 million in new funding for public schools. According to Evers, ensuring school funding was the chief reason he did not veto the bill in its entirety.

“I’ve always said what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state, so this budget began and ends where it always does for me—with education,” Evers said. “Other people playing politics hasn’t stopped me from doing what’s best for our kids before, and it’s not going to stop me today.”

Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks before he signs the Republican-written state budget...
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks before he signs the Republican-written state budget that includes a $2 billion income tax cut at Cumberland Elementary School, Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Whitefish Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)(Scott Bauer | AP)

He added that the increase will let schools hire more teachers and staff, offer more educational and mental health support, and buy new supplies, such as computers and art equipment.

The bill landed on his desk last week after passing the state Senate a little more than a week ago during a late-night session on Wednesday, June 30. Shortly after Evers announced he would sign the budget, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMaheiu (R-Oostburg) who had described the GOP-backed $3.4 billion tax cut “transformational” declared victory in no uncertain terms, arguing the governor should not receive any credit for the budget and that he had been “boxed into corner” and refused to fight for his budget.

Had Evers vetoed the entire plan, that would have put $2.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding for K-12 schools in jeopardy. That money only comes to the state if funding for schools increases enough to meet federal requirements, which the budget as it stands does.

UW System President Tommy Thompson, a former governor himself, and Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III released a joint statement complimenting both Evers and the legislature for passing the budget, which they say will provide “significant investments in the university’s mission,” including by paying for infrastructure and supporting its employees.

Copyright 2021 WMTV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this article.