Governor’s tax cut pledge could affect local communities

Walker: Property taxes will go down through 2018 if he's re-elected
Governor’s tax cut pledge could affect local communities
Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker is promising that property taxes will not increase in his second term if he’s re-elected, but he’s giving no details on how he’d keep them down.

The governor told the Wisconsin Realtors’ Association Wednesday that property taxes would go down through 2018 under his plan if he’s re-elected in November.

When asked how he planned to go about these changes, a spokesman for the governor said only that he plans to work with lawmakers to make the reduction happen.

Wisconsin Taxpayers’ Alliance President Todd Berry said there aren’t many options to make that happen, and it will likely lead to lower levy limits.

“If you keep those limits down, that’s going to control the growth,” Berry said. “The other thing they can do is increase state spending by increasing aids to schools or tech colleges, and they effectively buy down the property tax.”

Berry said even if the governor chooses that option, it could still affect local bottom lines.

“The longer you have tight limits on local governments and school districts, the more likely they have done the easy or affordable, cheap things to hold the budget down,” Berry said. “The longer it goes on the more the decisions become more difficult.”

Berry said locals could turn to more referendums to override levy limits.

The amount that taxes would or could go down would vary by community or homeowner under any likely plan, and a chart provided by the governor’s office shows only a $1 decrease for the median homeowner’s property taxes by 2018.

The governor said the goal is more long-term.

“As we’ve seen in the past, one of the biggest barriers is the people buying the homes, first-time home buyers, has been the high cost of property taxes in the communities in the state,” Walker said. “We think by announcing in advance our goal of doing that over the next four years and showing over the eight-year period that property taxes will be less on a typical home, that will send a strong message to home buyers, and it will help improve the economy.”

The governor’s Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, said in response that she’s also committed to holding the line on property taxes, but said the governor has failed to deliver on his last campaign promise of 250,000 jobs.