MADISON - Income taxes for the average person in Wisconsin would be cut by $105 under a Republican proposal unveiled Friday that lawmakers plan to vote on next week and quickly send to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
The nearly $250 million income tax cut is the largest part of the GOP plan that also would reduce personal property taxes paid by businesses by nearly $45 million and trim general state debt by $100 million. Republicans are tapping some of the state's projected $620 million budget surplus to pay for the tax cuts.
"Wisconsin is in great fiscal shape and we should prioritize giving money back to taxpayers," Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement.
It's unclear whether Evers supports any of the tax cuts. Evers' spokeswoman Britt Cudaback did not comment on whether the governor would sign any part of the plan, but instead faulted Republicans for not spending more on schools and reducing property taxes.
Evers has proposed spending $130 million to cut property taxes as part of a $250 million school funding plan the Legislature rejected. Republican Rep. Joan Ballweg, in explaining why Republicans weren't increasing school funding, said lawmakers will consider more money for schools when crafting the next state budget next year.
"I think we've done a pretty good job funding schools," she said.
The state budget that the GOP-controlled Legislature passed last year and Evers signed increased funding for K-12 schools by about $565 million over two years. Evers had proposed a $1.4 billion increase. Evers earlier this month called the Legislature into special session to spend $250 million more on schools, but the Assembly refused to take action.
The newly released Republican tax cut plan would not reduce personal property taxes as the governor proposed and that Fitzgerald had earlier said was a priority for him as well. Instead, it would increase the standard deduction for income tax filers, thereby cutting income taxes. Reducing income taxes, instead of property taxes, will put more cash directly into the pockets of taxpayers, Ballweg said.
The income tax cut would affect about 64% of all filers, about 2 million people, and result in an average decrease of $105, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The tax cut would increase the standard deduction for each filing type by 13.2%.
Wisconsin has a sliding scale standard deduction that falls the more a person makes. Under current law, married couples filing jointly who make less than $23,000 receive a $20,470 standard deduction. Under the bill, married couples earning up to $25,610 would receive a $23,170 standard deduction.
On the high end, currently any married couples earning more than $126,499 get no standard deduction. Under the plan, that income cut off would increase to $144,669.
The Senate plans to vote on the bill Wednesday, followed by the Assembly on Thursday, their final day in session this year.
Oneida County health officials confirmed two more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the county's total to 5.
Health officials say the 4th individual is in their 50's and has traveled outside the community, but has not had any contact with anyof the previously confirmed cases in the county. That person is now in isolation.
They say the 5th individual is in their 70's, and is currently in the hospital. They say they person has not had contact with any of thepreviously confirmed cases in the county, nor have they traveled outside of the community.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Stores in our area that sell the materials to make them have been declared non-essential, though.
"I don't want to jeopardize anybody's health and be open as usual," store owner Mary Wilke said.
Wilke knew she had to close both of her Sew Smart crafting supply stores as soon as COVID-19 appeared, but she was offering curbside delivery until she got a call.
"The health department called me and told me that I was not abiding by the law and I had to cease immediately and I could no longer do that," Wilke said. "The only options I had were to do mail order or deliveries."
RHINELANDER - As the Coronavirus spreads across the world, medical professionals balance giving patients the best care possible while also keeping themselves healthy.
That juggling act forced many healthcare providers to stay away from their families -- fearing they may bring the virus home.
One local church opened its doors to give them a clean, safe, and free place to stay.
"We said hey we aren't going to wait around for someone else to do it, we wanted to do something positive for the community." said Lead Pastor Joseph Fehlen.
The Grace Foursquare Church in Rhinelander transformed its Family Life Center into a place for medical professionals to stay.
"We were sitting around thinking what in the world can we do with our empty buildings. We were just like hey how about we open up our Family Life Center for medical professionals that might be scared to go home or can't go home because they are interacting with the Coronavirus," Fehlen said.
Fehlen says there are eight beds available with most household items handy.
"We've got some items donated. Slumberland gave us an amazing deal. Home Depot has been working with us to give us different supplies. People in our church have already donated and just the outpouring of people who've offered to help," Fehlen said.
The church assures that all spaces have been deep cleaned and prepared for the healthcare workers.
"There's a lot of space, there's a washer and dryer they can use when they come in. So there's a lot of things to do to keep it sanitized and we will have out bleach bottles and wipes all over the place," Fehlen said.
Fehlen says the church space will be available for as long as it's needed. In the meantime he hopes positive actions like this will keep the community moving forward during these times of need.
"Hang around with people who are hope dealers, dealing out hope, graciousness, love, forgiveness and acceptance to each other. Find those people," Fehlen said.
MADISON - The number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus in Wisconsin is up to 77 as of Monday, the state Department of Health Services reported.
That is an increase of nine people from Sunday. There have now been deaths reported in 16 counties. More than half of all deaths, 40, have occurred in Milwaukee County, followed by Dane County with nine.
As of Monday, there were 2,440 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. But because testing is not widespread, health officials continue to caution the actual number of cases is far higher.
RHINELANDER - The Northwoods Alliance for Temporary Housing, or NATH, celebrated its ninth year in January. Just a few months later, volunteers are finding ways to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
NATH normally hosts one or more fundraisers a month. However, they've had to cancel those recently. Executive Director Tammy Modic says the organization has lost nearly $30,000 as a result, but the impact extends much farther than money.
"It's not only the dollars. It's the community outreach," said Modic. "It's the volunteer you get, the youth that says, 'when I go back to school I'm going to do a fundraiser.'"
Modic said there are ways the community can help out during this time, like donating meals to residents at Frederick Place.
"Individuals, families, groups, businesses can sign up to provide a meal at Frederick Place. We figure we're saving $50 to $100 a night by doing this."
People can either cook or provide supplies for a meal, or support a local restaurant and order food to be delivered.
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