"Assembly Republicans overwhelmingly support the proposed tax cuts. We want to pass the governor’s plan as soon as possible so as to return these dollars to the taxpayers. It is the Assembly’s prerogative to introduce legislation and make it available to the public for input.
"The last special session bills on property tax relief went before the Joint Finance Committee and the Senate less than a week after the governor’s announcement. We’re not going to wait for the Senate when tax cuts are a top priority for Assembly Republicans."
Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald is clearly upset over the Assembly's decision to eschew negotiations with the Senate and move forward with the Governor's proposed tax cuts.
"It's not appropriate and it's not the way we operate the Legislature," Fitzgerald told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
What's the problem?
Senator Mike Ellis likes to play deal maker, and he knows this issue may be his last opportunity to do so. The cantankerous Neenah Republican has been in the legislature for 43 years. Because of the historic dysfunction within the Senate Republican Caucus, Mike Ellis is their de-facto leader. Presently, he's leading a small but vocal group of colleagues who do not favor the Governor's tax cut plans. Some want more money to be spent on K-12 education. Some want to tinker with the property tax cut. Others want changes made to the income tax cut. Others want to spend a bit more of the nearly one billion dollars in newly projected state revenues on pet projects.
All of them, led by Ellis, are standing in the way of the sweeping tax cuts.
There is nothing inherently nefarious with tweaking a proposal from the Governor. The earlier income tax cut contained in the budget, in fact, was the result of changes championed by State Representative (and CPA) Dale Kooyenga. But this isn't the case of two separate, competing visions. The State Senate has no vision--they have no plan.
The Assembly leadership decided that while the Senate dithered, they would move. They are not only advancing the tax cut legislation, they are advancing the pro-growth vision articulated by the Governor in his recent State of the State address.
Senate leadership, such as it is, is offended by the Assembly's action.
Their indignation, however, would be better received if they offered something--anything--other than generalized criticisms and worry.
Career politicians become enamored with 'the process.' So, as taxpayers wait for relief from Madison, the State Senate Republicans want to focus on a turf war.
Are the Governor's tax cuts in jeopardy?
Some Senators say they feel no sense of urgency to act. They believe that the newly-discovered revenue projections can materialize and accumulate and that, by doing nothing, the state's fiscal condition will improve.
If all they care about is the balance sheet and the possible, hypothetical, likely mythical structural deficit, they are correct.
But such a course of action assumes that the money is the State's to begin with, and that us lowly tax payers only 'get' to have whatever our benevolent overseers in Madison permit.
Such a government-first mentality is appalling. It also increases the likelihood that the money gets spent, rather than returned.
Kudos to the Assembly for pressing ahead on the tax cuts that give the surplus back.
In the end, it is likely that most of the Governor's tax cuts will survive. But the longer this drags on, the more likely it is that a greater portion (perhaps upward of $50 million) of the revenue will be spent. It's an election year...for some it may be their last days in the legislature. This could be their last chance to 'make an impact.'
Egos. They often get in the way of progress at the Capitol.
In the last 48 hours several sources have told me that the senators who are holding things up feel empowered to do so because they have not heard from many constituents who support giving back the surplus.
Can this be? Will people's apathy lead to a reduction of tax cuts and an increase in state spending? Will a handful of Senators be able to derail Governor Walker's tax cut package?