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Walker administration begins talks on tax reform

  • Associated Press
  • December 19, 2013 - 9:55 AM

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker's administration is taking a look at Wisconsin's tax code, including possible elimination of the state income tax.

Walker has said he's interested in getting rid of the income tax, and he reiterated that idea this week.

But spokesman Tom Evenson told the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1fI5uXg ) that it is just one possibility the governor is considering as he looks to cut taxes.

"Governor Walker's goal is to lower the overall tax burden every year he is in office," Evenson said. "(Eliminating income taxes) is simply hypothetical, and the governor was speaking of it in that context, as it is just one idea."

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Department of Revenue secretary Rick Chandler have started holding invitation-only discussions about tax reform around the state at the governor's request. Kleefisch's spokesman Casey Himebauch said about 25 people attended a meeting last week in Beloit.

Kleefisch and Chandler will eventually produce a report from the meetings, Himebauch said.

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance president Todd Berry said it would be difficult to make up the loss from an income tax elimination. To compensate by raising the sales tax, the rate would have to go up to 12 or 13 percent, he said. Another option is new taxes on things like food and fuel.

"A trial balloon for individual income tax elimination is sure to attract political attention," Berry said. "The devil is in some thorny details with big price tags."

A spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said she plans to propose her own set of tax reductions.

Other Democrats criticized Walker for considering a shift from income to sales tax, saying it would benefit high-income residents at the expense of those less wealthy.

"Once again Governor Walker is floating the most extreme, anti-middle class policies possible so he can propose a marginally less anti-middle-class policy and appear moderate," said Senate minority leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee.

The 2013-15 state budget includes a $650 million income tax cut.

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