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Wis. gov proposes $100 million property tax cut

Scott Bauer, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants the Legislature to pass a $100 million property tax cut next week, a move that would lower taxes on the bill that gets sent to homeowners just 11 months before Walker stands for re-election.

Walker's surprise and hastily organized announcement Thursday came just three days after Democrat Mary Burke became the first officially announced challenger to the Republican incumbent in next year's election.

Walker, flanked by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and budget committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, said his proposal was a win for taxpayers and would result in property tax bills for the median valued home by 2014 that are lower than when he took office.

The reductions would be modest for the owner of a median-valued $148,000 home. Property taxes this year would be $13 less than under current law on the bill mailed this December. Taxes would be $20 less next year, based on estimates by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Taxes would drop from $2,938 to $2,925 this year and from $2,974 to $2,954 next year.

Republicans were optimistic that Democrats would join them in quickly passing the proposal next week.

"I don't know why anybody would be opposed to this," said Republican Senate President Mike Ellis.

But Democrats, who don't have the votes to stop it, were skeptical. Even though Walker met with Democratic leaders on Wednesday, he didn't tell them about his proposal, said Melanie Conklin, spokeswoman for Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.

"We haven't seen this idea that we're supposed to get behind," said Democratic Rep. Sandy Pasch, who attended Walker's news conference that was announced with less than two hours' notice. "The devil's in the details on all of this."

Walker said money to pay for the cut will come from higher than anticipated state tax collections. The money, split $40 million this year and $60 million next year, will flow through the school aid formula but not be available for schools to spend, forcing it to go toward lowering taxes, Walker said.

Burke, a former state Commerce Department secretary and Trek executive, was asked about Walker's tax cut during a campaign stop in Green Bay.

"I'm all in favor of lower taxes and supporting our schools, but I'd have to make sure that it's doing that," Burke said of Walker's plan.