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New law attempts to curtail tax hikes

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Kevin Hoffman
February 23, 2011
— Ongoing protests at the Capitol on Tuesday overshadowed the passage of a new law requiring a two-thirds vote in the state Legislature to increase certain taxes.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill requiring a supermajority vote to hike the state sales, income or franchise taxes.


Rep. Tyler August, R-Walworth, is one of the bill's authors. It was August's first piece of legislation since taking office in January. He said it makes tax increases over the next two years unlikely, given the Republican majority in both houses of the Legislature.


August called the bill a big victory for Wisconsin businesses and taxpayers, though the issue is far from resolved. A constitutional amendment backed by several legislators, including August and Rep. Steven Nass, R-Whitewater, sits in the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means.


If approved, it would make the change permanent and give it more credibility if challenged in court.


"(That's) more important," August said. "Once we put a provision into the constitution, the Legislature is bound by that."


A report released last year by the Tax Foundation ranked Wisconsin's state and local tax burden in 2008 as ninth-highest in the nation at 10.2 percent. Wisconsin will join 16 other states that already have similar requirements of their Legislatures, August said.


The bill signed Tuesday includes a stipulation that the supermajority vote doesn't apply if the state Legislature passes a joint resolution to turn to a statewide referendum asking voters to approve a tax increase.


The constitutional amendment requires adoption by two successive Legislatures and approval through a referendum before it can become effective, according to state law. August said he's confident the change eventually will be made.


Walker, who continues to field criticism from thousands of protesters at the Capitol Square over his budget repair bill, said the law is a promising start to limit excessive spending by the state government.


"I went to work today, met with my cabinet and signed legislation that will help government operate within its means," he said in a statement. "Wisconsinites can't turn to raising taxes to balance their own family budgets when times get tough. This bill will ensure that we don't kick the can down the road for a quick budget fix."


The bill requiring two-thirds supermajority passed the Assembly last month, 57 to 36.


Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, co-authored the bill with August. She could not be reached Tuesday at her office.



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