Gov. Walker calls for $500 million tax cut in Wisconsin

Republicans are often advised to look for a successful governor to run for President in 2016.  There’s a lot to like in the resume of Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.  He’s so successful that his constituents re-elect him at least once a year!

His state is running a remarkable budget surplus – $912 million higher than anticipated – and Walker wants to return half of that money to the people, a plan he will formally unveil in his State of the State address on Wednesday night.  “Walker said he will outline his plans for lowering property taxes by $101 for the owner of a typical home,” reports WISN News.  “He is also calling for lowering the lowest income tax bracket, resulting in savings of between $44 and $58 for each filer.”

This proposal is not sitting very well with the loyal opposition:

Republican legislative leaders are praising the plan, while Democrats say more needs to be done to benefit the middle class.

Because letting those boobs keep their own money doesn’t “benefit” them as much as allowing wise politicians to “invest” it for them.

Democratic legislative leaders asked Gov. Scott Walker during a private meeting Tuesday to use a $977 million budget surplus to eliminate a projected deficit and spend more on education and job training programs.

Walker, a Republican up for re-election in November and eyeing a 2016 presidential bid, has said he wants to tap the surplus to provide income and property tax relief. The state’s surplus surged by $912 million under new estimates released last week, setting off a frenzy in the Capitol among those hoping to get some of it.

“Governor Walker believes the surplus should be returned to the hardworking taxpayers through property and income tax cuts and looks forward to working with members of both parties to make it happen,” Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson said in an email.

There are some state Republicans who want to use part of the current budget surplus to offset a projected shortfall over the years to come – a projection that “does not account for increases in state tax collections, changes in state law, or any other factors between now and then that could affect the state’s bottom line.”  There have also been proposals for targeted sales tax holidays and income tax rate decreases.

Democrats have their own ideas for how to spend the windfall:

Before any tax cuts, Democrats want to restore cuts Walker and Republicans made to public schools and technical colleges, reduce $2 billion in additional bond spending, and lower ongoing spending commitments that create the $725 million shortfall in 2015.

“For us, we’d like to see tax cuts but we have to make sure that the essential obligations are taken care of,”Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larson said.

Barca said Walker and Republicans should focus on ways to improve the lives of Wisconsin’s middle class.

“What we’re calling for is a balanced approach. Clearly Wisconsin has been struggling in jobs,” he said. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin ranked 37th in private sector job growth between June 2012 and June 2013.

And if there’s one thing the past five years have proven, it’s that giving politicians a huge bankroll to throw around causes jobs to spring up like dandelions, especially if the big-spending politicians loudly declare they are “pivoting to job creation” every eight to ten weeks.  Wisconsin’s employment picture has improved under Walker, but he’s less than half way to the 250,000 jobs he promised to create.

Democrats regard this as a political weakness they can exploit, which is kind of weird, because they voted for Barack Obama, and his job-creation promises fell even further short, by an order of magnitude.  Remember how that trillion-dollar stimulus bill was supposed to deliver a roaring economy with 5 percent unemployment before the end of his first term?  Remember how the President explicitly stated that he should be voted out of office if he failed to deliver?

In excerpts from his speech published by the Associated Press, Walker asks, “What do you do with a surplus?  Give it back to the people who earned it.  It’s your money.”

He also talks about entitlement reform in the context of reducing unemployment: “Our reforms are based on common sense. We ask those receiving unemployment checks to seek work four or more times a week instead of two. We ask adults without children seeking food stamps to enroll in employment training. We’re not making it harder to get government assistance; we’re making it easier to get a job.”

The odds of Walker getting his proposals enacted are good, considering Republican strength in the legislature, and his ability to accomplish some of his goals administratively.  (If the Party of Obama objects to that, it will be the funniest thing that happened since union bosses ordered them to flee to hotels in Illinois to avoid a vote.)

Then we’ll have a little while to measure the results before Walker makes any firm decisions about running for re-election, or seeking higher office.  It’s not difficult to predict that the budget and job-creation outcomes of the policies he announces tonight will play a large role in determining his future.  In this day and age, budget surpluses are a rare phenomenon, guaranteed to make for some lively political struggles.  Nothing rattles the big spenders more than responding to the simple “give it back to the people who earned it” argument Governor Walker is making.