Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Secretary of Revenue Rick Chandler came to Hudson last Thursday, June 19, seeking input on what taxes the state government should work to lower.
The two participated in a tax reform roundtable at the UW-River Falls Hudson Center that lasted more than two hours.
Gov. Scott Walker has committed to lowering the tax burden in Wisconsin every year he is in office, Kleefisch said in her opening remarks.
“That’s what today is about,” she said. “How can we help?”
Chandler gave a presentation on the current structure of Wisconsin taxes, and then Kleefisch moderated a discussion on what taxes the roundtable participants would most like to see reduced.
Chandler said job creation is the top goal for the Walker administration, and that tax reform is a key for achieving that goal.
He also noted that a good business climate relies on a number of things, including a good workforce, the educational system, the tax and regulatory structures, infrastructure and quality of life.
Wisconsin has been known as a state with a great workforce and educational system, Chandler said, “but the tax structure needs work.”
He highlighted tax cuts that were part of the 2013 state budget adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Walker, also a Republican.
Chandler said the middle class received most of the income tax cuts, but the cuts extended to all income groups.
Income taxes were simplified, too, and deductions were increased for Health Savings Accounts, he said.
A manufacturing and agriculture tax credit was adopted that will effectively eliminate income taxes for those industries by 2016.
The theory behind the credit, Chandler said, is that the manufacturing and agricultural industries are the main drivers of Wisconsin’s economy, and if they are doing well, the state will do well.
Currently, 39.7 percent of combined state and local tax revenue comes from property taxes, Chandler reported.
Income tax revenue follows at 28.3 percent; sales tax revenue, 17.8 percent; motor vehicle tax revenue, 5.3 percent; corporate income tax revenue, 3.5 percent; and other revenue, 5.5 percent.
Kleefisch asked the group what sort of tax reform they would like to see in the future. She also asked if they would like a steady reduction or an immediate restructuring.
In addition, she asked what taxes are the most and least acceptable, and what tax reforms would encourage job growth.
There seemed to be some consensus that property taxes are the most onerous, although the income tax was mentioned by one business owner.
North Hudson Village President Stan Wekkin said his village hadn’t seen a reduction in property taxes that the state officials talked about because of reductions in state shared revenue and transportation funds.
“We’re struggling,” Wekkin said. “All the costs go up. Everybody wants a raise. And the only ones that can pay it is the (property) taxpayers.”
Bill Berndt, a representative of Wisconsin Realtors Association, advocated “somewhat of a big splash” in reducing property taxes. He said that could be accomplished by funding technical colleges through the state’s general fund instead of property taxes.