Gov. Walker talks tax cuts, economy in State of the State - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Gov. Walker talks tax cuts, economy in State of the State

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MADISON (WAOW) -- Gov. Scott Walker has asked state legislators to cut property and income taxes, made possible by almost $1 billion in extra state money.

At the final state of the state address of his term Wednesday, Walker pitched what he calls a "Blueprint for Prosperity." In it, he asks legislators to reduce property taxes by $406 million and reduce income taxes for the lowest earners by $98.6 million.

Walker told state lawmakers he has also asked his revenue secretary to adjust the amounts withheld in Wisconsin workers' paychecks by $322.6 million. Walker says that will save the average family of four about $57 per paycheck.

This is all possible because the state has a $911 million surplus beyond what was originally projected.

"What do you do with a surplus? Give it back to the people who earned it," said Walker. "It's your money."

Many Republicans have come out in support of Walker's tax cut plan. The GOP controls the state Assembly and Senate.

"I think the governor's proposal will stay largely intact, maybe a few tweaks," said State Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst).

But Democrats say the surplus should be used for programs that help the middle class.

"The revelation of these funds provides an opportunity to reinvest in our public schools, healthcare workers, public transit, worker training initiatives, local governments, and many other hard working people in our state whose difficult sacrifices have helped to reduce our deficit," said State Rep. Mandy Wright (D-Wausau) in a statement.

Walker says his reforms of the past several years have resulted in the state surplus. But some Democrats don't think so.

"I would say it's fine to say that it's a surplus, but it's politically convenient and a lot of people are still hurting, and we need to work together to fix that," said State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point).

The governor maintains his plan will boost the economy.

"When I travel the state, people don't tell me that they want to keep sending more money to Madison," said Walker.

Walker spent a significant amount of time in his address Wednesday touting the state's strong financial position and improving economy. He highlighted companies that have recently added jobs including A&B Process Systems in Stratford and Greenheck in Schofield. Walker recently visited both those companies.

The governor also brought up his well-known promise to help create 250,000 jobs in the state. Walker did not directly address the fact that the state is not on target to meet that goal. Instead, he touted the almost 13,000 businesses created in the state during the past several years.

"If each of these new ventures grew by 15 employees or more by next year, we would more than exceed our 250,000 jobs goal," said Walker.

Democrats have repeatedly criticized Walker for his failure to deliver on his jobs promise.

In addition to the proposed tax cuts, Walker asked lawmakers to increase funding for technical colleges, pay for high school students to train to work in high-demand jobs, and expand a program to hire people with disabilities.

But Wright said Walker's tax cut plan will end up reducing the amount of money technical colleges receive by way of property taxes, thereby hurting those colleges and training programs.

"Two years after a historic 30 percent cut to our technical colleges, Wisconsin employers continue to struggle to find trained workers to fill skilled positions," said Wright.

Walker said he will call for a special session Thursday to begin working on his legislative agenda.

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