Government and Political Roundup: Income tax cuts could be announced today
The committee that's revising the proposed state budget could decide today how much of an income tax cut you'll get over the next two years. The Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the G-O-P's plans for a tax cut, school funding, and Medicaid reforms. Yesterday, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the average income tax cut would be 150-dollars next year, and 290-dollars in 2015. That's the combined effect of the plans put forward by Governor Scott Walker and Assembly Republican Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield. Over 60-percent of the tax breaks would go to those making over 100-thousand dollars a year. The Kooyenga plan cuts the most. Unlike the governor's package, Kooyenga wants to get rid of smaller and lesser-used tax credits for businesses. Under the yearly average of both plans, a worker making 15-thousand-dollars a year would get a nine-dollar break - while those making 100-thousand get 559-dollars taken off. Republican Senate President Mike Ellis said he could support the Kooyenga plan, or any plan that cuts taxes. Racine Assembly Democrat Cory Mason says the full scope of the tax cut has gotten very little public scrutiny. He says it would take funding away from public schools - and it would not help the middle class.
Three federal judges have an approved an out-of-court settlement which ends a long legal challenge to the re-drawing of Wisconsin's legislative districts in 2011. The judges settled the re-districting case itself a year ago, but it still dragged on. The Democrat and Hispanic groups which filed the lawsuit kept accusing majority legislative Republicans of not giving them all the documents that the court told Republicans to release, showing how the G-O-P secretly redrew the maps. Three computers were turned over earlier this year - and the plaintiffs raised questions about whether the G-O-P purged the most damaging documents in the case beforehand. They couldn't prove it, so they obtained a settlement. The three federal judges - J-P Stadtmueller, Diane Wood, and Robert Dow - said the state's Office of Lawyer Regulation might want to look into the way the documents were handled. The judges also scolded Republicans for fostering a quote, "peculiarly fertive process" which created even more rancor than redistricting that's done by partisans normally creates. The court said it would be left up to politicians, the media, and others to establish a more open process after the 2020 Census. The judges said quote, "We cannot help but conclude that the people of Wisconsin deserve better in the next round of redistricting."
It could be a while before the Wisconsin Legislature decides whether to let the laws they pass automatically stay in place while they're being appealed in the courts. The Assembly is scheduled to take its final action on the measure this week, but the Senate says it won't take it up at least until this fall, if then. A spokeswoman for G-O-P Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says senators are focused on the state budget, which is due for approval by the end of the month. She said the leadership might consider the proposal in the autumn floor period. Republicans have been upset by a series of Dane County court rulings which struck down the state's photo I-D law for voting. They say it's wrong to let a judge in one county block a law meant to be followed in an entire state. Democrats say the bill goes against the government's separation-of-powers by having the legislative branch tell the judicial branch what to do. The Legislative Reference Bureau says the bill might be found unconstitutional if somebody challenges it.