Senate GOP approves tax bill, rejects effort to honor Colin Kaepernick
Republican senators Wednesday passed a GOP tax bill along party lines that cleared the Assembly Tuesday.
It is unlikely to become law due to concerns from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers over how the bill is funded.
But in a statement after the vote, Evers didn’t immediately say he’d veto the bill.
“I’ve said all along that this issue must be part of our broader budget conversation, so I will not be taking immediate action on the proposal passed today,” Evers said. “Instead, I’ll be including my plan in our budget as promised.”
The Republican plan would provide an average income tax cut of $170 to about 2 million largely middle-class tax filers, and rely on one-time state surplus revenues to finance it.
Republicans touted the plan as a way to give back to middle-class taxpayers, while Democrats railed against it as fiscally irresponsible.
“We’ve got to continue to nip away at Wisconsin’s high taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.
Their plan would reduce state tax revenues by about $490 million in the second and final year of the next state budget cycle. That includes an ongoing tax reduction of $338 million plus a one-time cost of $152.1 million to account for the timing of the change.
Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Somers, likened the tax cut’s financing as unreliable “phantom, future revenue.”
Evers and Democrats earlier this month unveiled their own tax plan that mirrors the GOP plan but differs in its funding mechanism.
Evers said the plan, which would provide the average taxpayer a cut of $225, will appear in his budget scheduled to be released Feb. 28.
The Democratic plan would reduce state revenue by about $892 million over the next budget cycle, but Democrats have only partially said how they would pay for it.
About half of their tax cut — about $518 million — would be financed by a tax increase: capping the manufacturing tax credit at $300,000 of annual income. Farmers, who currently can claim the credit, would not be affected by the change.
No on Kaepernick
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans Wednesday rejected an attempt to recognize African-American athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick on a Black History Month resolution one day after Republicans in the Assembly did the same.
Senators along party lines turned down the attempt by Democrats, which included the chamber’s two black senators, to recognize Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, on a ceremonial resolution recognizing Black History Month and a list of influential African-Americans.
Republican senators ended up passing a Black History Month resolution without any Democratic support striking Kaepernick’s name after hours of debate. Members of the Assembly did so unanimously Tuesday.
“The fact you chose to eliminate a name that was voted on, and agreed upon, by the only African-American legislators in this body is degrading, it’s insulting, it’s infuriating,” said Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, who is black.
The votes came after several Democrats voiced their opposition, and after lengthy speeches from Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, who is black, chastising Republican senators for what she viewed as censorship of African-American lawmakers.
“Who are you to deny our reality?” Taylor said as she referred to what she viewed as glaring racial disparities across the state.
During her time speaking on the Senate floor, she referenced several other black victims of police-involved shootings she said Kaepernick had stood for in protest.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters Tuesday he objected to including Kaepernick’s name on the Black History Month resolution because it was too controversial. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, added they had objected “for obvious reasons.”
Members of both parties in the Assembly Tuesday compromised by voting unanimously for a Black History Month resolution that struck Kaepernick’s name. On Wednesday, Assembly members of the Legislative Black Caucus, however, requested their votes be changed to “no” in the official journal of the Assembly. Such requests are purely symbolic, they do not change the official roll call vote tally.
Senate Democrats Wednesday slammed Republican leadership in the Assembly for, in their view, creating a “mess.”
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, warned Republicans their vote against including Kaepernick’s name indicated bigger problems in the chamber.
“This place is broken, and today if we go forward with this it breaks a little bit more,” Shilling said.
Kaepernick, who was born in Milwaukee, sparked national controversy by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem at NFL games to protest police brutality and what he sees as oppression of African-Americans. He has also appeared wearing socks that portrayed police officers as pigs.
Taylor, during her speech, argued some of the most significant African-American leaders in U.S. history — such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X — were “controversial.”
She accused Republican legislators of attempting to decide for African-Americans which forms of protest were acceptable, and asked several Republican senators directly if they’d explain their opposition to the resolution. She received no response.
“Doing the right thing is controversial,” Taylor said. “Doing what is right takes courage. Colin Kaepernick showed courage.”
The disagreement follows a spat between Assembly lawmakers last year, when a Republican lawmaker had preferred a Black History Month resolution honoring all black residents of Wisconsin rather than a select few honorees. The Assembly eventually passed separate resolutions.