A commentary by Rebecca Kleefisch, Lt. Governor of Wisconsin.
A few weeks ago I visited UW-Platteville for a roundtable with local small business owners, retirees, and folks from the Grant County Farm Bureau. We met to talk about taxes, and the possibility that we could reform the tax system in our state to make it easier for businesses to create jobs and grow the economy.
One of the farmers in the room said that taxes had hit home in a new way as he was looking to transfer his farm to the next generation, but realized few young potential buyers could afford to be the new owner.
In that moment, seeing a man discuss the fragile future of his life's work, the harsh reality of taxes was clear to all. It hit home again in Dane County the next week when four more farmers voiced the same concerns.
But I've heard similar stories from manufacturers, from Main Street shop owners, from family restaurateurs. High taxes are a burden on all of us: the family budget and the business bottom line.
The good news is that we've made progress in the last few years bringing down taxes. In our last budget, signed into law this past summer, we cut income taxes by $651 million dollars, which is especially important for small businesses that pay taxes as an S-Corp. or LLC. When the state brought in more revenue than expected, we returned it as $100 million in property tax relief.
Our growing economy has led to another surplus, this time $911.9 million more than we expected.
Gov. Walker, in his State of the State address last month, proposed a Blueprint for Prosperity to use that money to further fuel our economic growth. After setting a slice aside in the state's rainy day fund, we'd put $406 million into property tax relief and nearly $100 million into income tax relief. Cuts like that make a real difference for families and farmers who are sick of paying some of the highest taxes in the nation.
Of course, of particular interest to our state's ag community is the Manufacturing & Agriculture Tax Credit, which represents a huge investment in the twin drivers of our state's economy.
This new tax credit will dramatically reduce the tax liability that agricultural enterprises have to the state. We're doubling down on the two industries that we know historically have worked for Wisconsin, and we're relying on you to use these tax credits to keep growing Wisconsin as a leading agricultural exporter.
Even as we lower taxes, we can also levy taxes in a simpler, smarter way. Those two goals are why I held the roundtable in Platteville last month. That's why I've held similar roundtables in Eau Claire, Superior, Beloit, Green Bay, La Crosse, Stevens Point, and Madison, with more planned for the future. For each roundtable, we invite members of the local county Farm Bureau to ensure farmers' voices are represented in the discussion.
You can add your own voice by visiting TaxReform.wi.gov. This new web tool is an important way to make sure that citizens from every part of the state can add their ideas and input to the dialogue. We want you to tell us what we can do to make the tax system work better. Listening to the people who pay the taxes is the best way to ensure that we keep Wisconsin's economy growing strong.