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Wisconsin Senate Democrats block vote on tax cut bill

MADISON — The Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday debated a Republican-authored $250 million income tax cut proposal that could be on a collision course with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers who wants the Legislature to spend more money on schools.

Republicans were moving swiftly to pass the tax cut in an election year,but Democrats used a procedural move to at least temporarily block a vote in the Senate on Wednesday. It wasn’t clear when the Senate would vote on the measure.

The Assembly was scheduled to vote on it Thursday, its last planned session day of the year. Evers has not said yet whether he would sign or veto the measure.

Evers vetoed a similar income tax cut last year and has criticized the Legislature for cutting taxes rather than taking up his plan to bolster school funding.

Republicans don’t have enough votes to override a veto without Democratic support.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Evers told him this week that he would consider the bill.

“Governor Evers has not ruled out signing this into law,” Fitzgerald said. “I hope he does.”

Evers’ spokeswoman Britt Cudaback tweeted that Evers told Fitzgerald he would be as open to the GOP tax cut plan as Republicans have been to passing his education plan. So far, Republicans have shown no interest in it.

Evers wants the surplus to be used to pay for a $250 million boost in funding for K-12 schools. His plan would include spending $130 million to reduce property taxes.

Republicans argue that schools did well under the state budget approved last year, which boosted their funding $565 million. Republicans say taxpayers should benefit from the projected budget surplus and receive a tax cut.

Evers, the former state superintendent for education, campaigned in 2018 on increasing funding for schools so no one should be surprised he wants to tap a budget surplus to give them more, said Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

The state is projected to have a $620 million budget surplus by the middle of next year.

The Republican bill would increase the standard deduction for income tax filers, resulting in an average reduction of $106 for most filers who would qualify. Married couples filing jointly would see an average cut of $145. All other filers would see an average reduction of $81. The cut would affect about 64% of all filers, or about 2 million people.

The plan would also reduce taxes for manufacturers by nearly $45 million by exempting their machinery and tools from property taxes and would trim general state debt by $100 million.

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