by Benjamin Yount
Two of the top lawmakers at the Wisconsin Capitol say the state’s record $6 billion surplus is “the people’s money,” but they don’t agree on much else.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Assistant Minority Leader Kalan Haywood sat down for a question-and-answer session Friday with the Wisconsin Policy Forum.
Haywood said the surplus is “the people’s money,” and he wants to spend it.
“The surplus we have is $6.6 billion, with a B, is an opportunity to invest in the people of Wisconsin. Whether that’s education, healthcare, transportation,” Haywood explained. “It’s the people’s money, so we should invest it in the people.”
Vos agreed the surplus is “the people’s money,” which is why he says he wants to give it back to the people.
“One of the things that we are setting out as a broad budget parameter is that we are not going to use the surplus to expand the size of government,” Vos said. “We are not going to create the fiscal hole that it took us nearly a decade to dig out of.”
Vos doesn’t have a specific price tag for the tax cuts that Republicans are certain to propose, but he said he can’t see Republicans doing anything less than the $3.4 billion in tax cuts that they included in the last budget.
“I would think it would be significantly higher than that,” Vos said.
One area where there is near total disagreement between Republicans and Democrats is the question of more money for Milwaukee.
“I have very little confidence in the city of Milwaukee being able to make hard decisions. So part of the problem I have is just giving them more revenue,” Vos explained. “I need to see what the reforms will be, not just the revenues.”
Haywood said Milwaukee’s needs are obvious, as is the city’s impact on the state.
“Both the city of Milwaukee and county of Milwaukee are the economic engine of the state. So the city is asking for more shared revenue to sustain essential city services,” Haywood added. “We see revenue come into Milwaukee, but we also see leave right back out and go to the state. We’re not asking for more than we’ve brought to the table, we’re just asking for our fair share.”
Vos said the idea of “revenue without reforms is DOA.”
Vos said he is keeping his mind open to a grand bargain that could include more shared revenue for Milwaukee in exchange for pension reforms that would bring the city into the state’s pension system.
The Republican-led Assembly will work with the Republican-led Senate to begin crafting a new state budget once lawmakers return to the Capitol in January.
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Benjamin Yount is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Wisconsin State Representative Robin Vos” by Wisconsin State Representative Robin Vos. Photo “Representative Kalan Haywood” by Representative Kalan Haywood. Background Photo “Wisconsin State Capitol” by Basharat Alam Shah. CC BY 2.0.