Republicans resuming complete control of state government after Tuesday’s election are eyeing across-the-board income tax cuts, a new mining bill and a complete review of state regulations in the new legislative session.
The results effectively return the makeup of the Legislature to January 2011 — before lawmakers cut spending and revised public sector collective bargaining, prompting a series of GOP losses in legislative recall elections.
“Is there going to be that kind of drama again? I doubt it,” said Brian Schimming, first vice chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “You can’t stabilize the economy by changing it up every two years.”
State finances are in better shape than they were two years ago and Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators are considering how to use a surplus to encourage economic growth and create jobs. State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who expects to be elected Assembly Speaker next week, said the state should enact tax cuts for all income levels and reverse other taxes Democrats raised in the last two years of Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration.
State Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, who expects to return as Assembly minority leader, said Democrats would prefer to restore tax credits for low-income people that Republicans cut last session. They also want the economic growth discussion to focus on education and training workers for jobs that are going unfilled because of a skills gap.
Republicans are in solid control of the Assembly, 58-38, with three races too close to call, and they’re up 16-15 in the Senate, with a December special election expected to deliver another GOP senator and a Republican leading in one close race.
Vos said reviving mining legislation that stalled earlier this year “is going to be one of the first things we can get done.” He didn’t go into details on the specifics of the bill.
Vos also said he plans to conduct the first “top-to-bottom” regulatory review in 25 years to find ways to help businesses. He also wants to improve schools that aren’t meeting expectations under the state’s new rating system, though he didn’t offer specific strategies.
“I am certain we will put more money into education,” Vos said.
Senate Republicans called a leadership election for Thursday. Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, who lost the title of majority leader a few months ago after a series of recall elections, plans to reclaim his leadership role, according to an aide. Fitzgerald did not respond to an interview request.
Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, announced Wednesday he would step down as the Democrats’ Senate leader. He also did not respond to an interview request. Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said he would seek the post. Erpenbach said he is the only one actively seeking the position and added that Senate Democrats’ leadership elections would be held next Thursday at the earliest.
With a series of divisive elections behind it, the state now turns to the biennial budget process, starting with an update on the state’s fiscal situation on Nov. 20.
According to Legislative Fiscal Bureau director Bob Lang, the state is projecting a $261 million surplus by June 30 in addition to $125 million the state put in a rainy day fund last year. The projections in two weeks will give the clearest picture yet of the state’s budget situation.
State Journal reporters Steven Verburg, Jeff Glaze and the Associated Press contributed to this report.