- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Walker makes case for property, income tax cuts

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker made the case in his State of the State speech Wednesday that extra money coming in because of the improving national economy should be returned as property and income tax cuts, though some Republicans say his proposal goes too far.

Walker, in a speech that also doubled as an argument for re-election in November, asked lawmakers to approve $504 million in property and income tax cuts over the next 17 months.

“The state of our state is strong and improving every day,” Walker said during a joint meeting of the Legislature in a packed Assembly chamber. “The economy is dramatically better and our finances are in great shape. Still, there is more work to be done.”

The hourlong speech, Walker’s fourth State of the State address, comes as he’s aiming for another term in office and positioning himself as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate. Democrat Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive, is challenging him in the governor’s race.

Walker’s tax cut proposal - which would save a typical homeowner about $150 a year - was made possible by updated projections released last week that showed Wisconsin would collect $912 million more than previously anticipated.

“What do you do with a surplus?” he said in the speech. “Give it back to the people who earned it. It’s your money.”

But elements of the tax cut plan, dubbed by Walker a “Blueprint for Prosperity,” are running into opposition from some Republican state senators who say it increases the projected budget shortfall too much. Republicans control the Senate 18-15 and have a 60-39 majority in the Assembly.

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Highlights, reaction to Walker’s State of State

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker made the case for $504 million in property and income tax cuts in his hourlong State of the State speech Wednesday. Highlights from the speech, and reaction, include:

- TAX CUTS: Walker is proposing a $406 million property tax cut and a $98.6 million income tax reduction, part of what he calls a “Blueprint for Prosperity.” The property tax cut would be made by reducing the technical college levy and would show up on the tax bill mailed in December. The income tax cut would be done by reducing the lowest rate from 4.4 percent to 4 percent. That is applied to the first $10,910 in income for single filers and the first $14,540 for married couples.

- INCOME TAX WITHHOLDING: Walker ordered the Department of Revenue to update income tax withholding tables to return about $322 million to taxpayers in their paychecks, instead of it coming back through their tax return. Walker said that equates to about $58 a month for a typical family of four.

- OTHER TAX CUTS: Walker’s plan doesn’t include a sales tax holiday, exempting aviation companies from paying sales taxes on aircraft maintenance parts and labor or other tax cut ideas that have been floating around the Legislature. Lawmakers are sure to feel pressure to work those into whatever package is passed, but for now there’s no consensus on what may get added.

- DEFICIT: Walker’s tax cuts would increase the state’s projected deficit heading into the two-year budget that begins in mid-2015 by $100 million. The shortfall already stands at $725 million without any changes. However, that doesn’t take into account revenue growth. Some Republican senators have said they want to reduce that shortfall in addition to cutting taxes.

- WORKER TRAINING: Walker proposed adding $35 million to the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to be used on eliminating waiting lists for high demand fields at technical colleges, help high school students get trained for high-demand jobs through dual enrollment programs and support programs that help people with disabilities find work.

- PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Walker announced a yearlong initiative designed to help people with disabilities find work. Walker said he will spend the year highlighting employers who hire people with disabilities as well as groups that work to help them get trained and find work. “Filling all the positions available in the state, now and in the future, also requires us to think and act in new ways,” Walker said.

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Conflicting views of Ind. shooting suspect emerge

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A Purdue University engineering student who police say fatally shot another student in a basement classroom prepared to face a judge as those who knew both men struggled to make sense of the violence Wednesday.

Cody Cousins, 23, was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon in a small courtroom at the Tippecanoe County Jail, Deputy Prosecutor Kristen McVey said in a statement.

Cousins, who has addresses in Warsaw, Ind., and Centerville, Ohio, is being held without bond on a preliminary charge of murder in Tuesday’s shooting death of 21-year-old Andrew Boldt of West Bend, Wis. Police have said Cousins targeted Boldt but they haven’t disclosed why or how the two might have known each other.

Conflicting portraits are emerging of Cousins. Former high school classmates and teachers say he excelled academically. But some at Purdue say he could be rude and disliked being told he was wrong.

Police have said both Cousins and Boldt were seniors, and they identified Boldt as a teaching assistant. However, documents posted on the engineering school’s website also listed Cousins as a teaching assistant. Both he and Boldt worked under Professor David Meyer for separate classes, according to the documents.

Purdue spokeswoman Liz Evans would not comment on Cousins’ status. A woman who answered the phone at Meyer’s home said the professor would not comment.

Cousins graduated from Springboro High School in southwestern Ohio, about an hour outside of Cincinnati, school district spokeswoman Karen DeRosa said.

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Democrat Burke says Walker painted rosy picture

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke says Gov. Scott Walker is painting an overly rosy picture of the state’s economy.

Burke reacted Wednesday to Walker’s State of the State speech in which he called for cutting property and income taxes $504 million in light of state revenues that are $912 million higher than originally anticipated.

Burke says she would use the surplus to pay down the state’s debt, target property tax relief to the middle class, and put more money into worker training.

Some Republican senators have criticized Walker’s tax cuts for increasing the state’s projected budget shortfall, but say a strong economy will erase that deficit.

Walker is calling for increasing worker training spending by $35 million in addition to cutting taxes.

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