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Republicans approve tax cuts, reject Evers’ child care package

The GOP plan replaced a child care package called for by Evers and is headed for a likely veto by the governor

A silhouetted "Wisconsin" statue is seen in front of dark clouds.
A cloudy sky is seen behind the Wisconsin State Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Two months after Gov. Tony Evers convened a special session to call on lawmakers to pass workforce development legislation, Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature on Tuesday passed their version of the bill, which nixes nearly all the governor’s programs, including child care funding and a paid leave program.

The GOP bill instead includes a more than $2 billion income tax cut, increases child care tax credits, and expands tax deductions for private school tuition. It also would make changes to licensing requirements and unemployment insurance eligibility.

The bill, which already passed the Senate, passed the Assembly on party lines and is all but guaranteed to be vetoed by Evers, who already vetoed a version of the tax cut earlier this year. Republicans describef the bill as a fair compromise, while Democrats called it a political stunt.

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“What we are left with is a package of pet projects, not a serious policy proposal,” said Rep. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay.

But Republicans argued Evers’ original $1 billion proposal would be an inefficient use of state funds that would not solve the state’s workforce and childcare challenges. They say tax relief will give people money they can use to spend on priorities like child care.

“This is going to give them more money — dollars in their pocket — for them to choose how they want to use it, whether they do use it on child care or they use it in some other form,” said Rep. Karen Hurd, R-Fall Creek. “But this is putting money back into the Wisconsinites’ pockets, where it belongs.”

A centerpiece of Evers’ bill would have been the extension of Child Care Counts, a pandemic-era subsidy program. Evers recently earmarked federal emergency funds to maintain the program through June 2025.

His proposal would also have established a statewide paid family and medical leave program, and poured millions of dollars into workforce development programs and into the Universities of Wisconsin, including $200 million for a new engineering building at UW-Madison.

Assembly Democrats on Tuesday attempted to reassert their priorities in an amendment that failed on a party-line vote.

Lawmakers then approved the GOP version by a vote of 62-36.