Hallelujah! Just three months before Election Day, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is suddenly demanding tax cuts. Dan O’Donnell reports on this miraculous development.
Aug. 26, 2022
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell
Hallelujah and praise the Lord, our dear brother Tony has seen the light! He has changed his ways and forsaken the temptation of high taxes! Can I get an amen from the congregation?
Never has there been an election-year conversion quite like Governor Evers’ sudden push for tax cuts but, as they say, there are no atheists in foxholes. He faces an all-out war for reelection against a well-armed opponent, and his battle plan seems to be unveiling a last-minute tax cut and praying voters don’t realize how disingenuous it is.
On the two-year anniversary of rioting in Kenosha that Evers egged on and then refused to quell—quite possibly the most shameful three days in the history of the Wisconsin governorship—he announced a 10 percent state income tax cut for individuals who earn $100,000 or less and joint-filers who earn $150,000 or less.
He also called for a repeal of Wisconsin’s minimum markup law on gas, increasing the income limit for tax relief for low-income senior citizens and disabled persons, expanding the child and dependent care tax credit, and creating a caregiver tax credit.
All of this would be funded, the Governor said, by Wisconsin’s massive budget surplus, which is expected to hit $5 billion. Of course, he just needs Republicans in the Legislature to sign off on it. Three months before the election. When Evers could simply fund the entire cut himself with the more than $2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money he has yet to allocate.
If Evers were really so intent on helping those who, as he put it, “have been through a lot over the past few years,” then why doesn’t he use federal funding explicitly allocated for that purpose? He has total control over those ARPA dollars and doesn’t need a vote in the Legislature to spend them on the tax relief he believes to be necessary, so why is he calling for one and spending state surplus funds?
Because, like every election-year conversion, this one isn’t at all genuine. Evers’ aims were threefold: Distract from the Kenosha anniversary, falsely present himself as a tax cutter, and blame Republicans for standing in his way.
And this was actually the second time in the past six months that Evers has tried it. In February, he called for a special session of the Legislature to pass his proposal to give each taxpayer in the state a $150 tax rebate. Then, as now, he never considered using ARPA funds and only floated this first election-year bribe as a political bludgeon against Republicans by forcing them to reject it.
This was especially cynical since almost exactly one year earlier, Evers proposed a 2021-2023 State Budget with more than $1 billion in tax increases. Funny how an election year can change one’s position, isn’t it?
Republicans took one look at Evers’ budget and threw it in the trash, eventually writing their own which included the state’s largest-ever tax cut—roughly $2 billion. Evers was so put off by this that he threatened to veto the entire thing, something that hasn’t happened in Wisconsin since 1931.
“That is always an option,” he said last June. “That is on the table.”
Then two weeks later, with an obvious eye on the calendar as it drew closer to an election year, he signed the Republican budget and immediately started taking credit for its tax cuts. How, asked an incredulous reporter, could he possibly claim as his own a budget he had just threatened to scrap entirely?
“Well,” answered Evers, devoid of any shame. “I could have vetoed that.”
Two years earlier, an almost identical scenario played itself out. Shortly after his inauguration, Evers proposed a 2019-2021 Budget with more than $1 billion in tax increases and a plan to increase Wisconsin’s gas tax by eight cents a gallon and peg future increases to the rate of inflation.
With inflation hitting 40-year-highs for the past nine months and rising as high as 9.1 percent in June, drivers would be paying 42 cents more per gallon had Evers gotten his way. Fortunately, he didn’t. Republicans tossed his budget and crafted their own.
From the moment he came into office, Evers has been trying to raise taxes…right up until the moment he must face voters. Now, miracle of miracles, Brother Tony is born again—a true believer in the healing power of tax cuts!
Hopefully, voters see the light and recognize how phony it is.