JFC Approves Property Tax Freeze

[Madison, Wisc…] The Joint Finance Committee voted on Thursday to freeze property taxes across the state for the next two years in a 12-4 party-line vote. After that increases will be limited to 1.5%.

“We’re putting money where our mouth is,” said Rep. Robin Vos, Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair. “We’ve talked about permanent property tax limits during the last campaign and now we’re making it happen so local governments finally will have the fiscal certainty they need.”

Local governments will still be able to increase taxes for the next two years by a half percent through unused levy authority.

Democrats agreed that property tax relief is needed in Wisconsin, but argued it takes control away from local governments and affects their ability to provide services.

“I think that our county board has been. I think that they have weighed the asks [sic] of our taxpayers in La Crosse with the needs and they have done it in a very responsible way,” said Rep. Jennifer Schilling (D-La Crosse).

Republicans argued overall changes made so far this session and in the budget, are giving local governments far more control than they’ve had in the past.

“As we add in the changes to collective bargaining and all the tools we are giving to local governments, I think we are putting together a very strong package to say local governments will not just be able to survive, they’ll be able to thrive,” said Vos.

Senator Robert Jauch (D-Poplar) said the property tax freeze was an example of big government, something Republicans campaigned against.

“This is the exact opposite of smaller government. This is big government imposing bad decisions on smaller government, whether it’s good for them or not,” Jauch said.

Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) argued with Democrats that taxpayers deserved consideration and protection as well.

“I think in my part of the state, people would like to have their property taxes stay even for at least a couple of years, because that’s what’s happened to their social security,” said Grothman.

Democrats preferred to enact targeted tax relief for lower income individuals, like the homestead tax credit. That particular measure was voted down. Democrats wanted to fund it by banking on new tax revenue estimates by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, predicting an extra $636 million from 2011 to 2013.

The state legislature is expected to vote on the full budget sometime next month.