MADISON — A battle is already brewing on how Wisconsin should spend billions in unexpected tax revenue.
In a shocking announcement from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, taxes generated this year through 2023 are now believed to be $4.4 billion higher than estimates from January.
The additional yet unexpected tax revenue means lawmakers will have billions of more dollars to spend in the state’s next budget, which is still being ironed out. Gov. Tony Evers’ administration believes it should be invested in things like education and infrastructure, while Republicans are eyeing massive tax cuts across the board.
"The news is very good for Wisconsin, the news is very good about our come back,” said Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan.
Secretary Brennan said the money is coming from taxes paid by Wisconsinites.
"It is income taxes, it's sales and use taxes and it's corporate taxes and in each of those places, Wisconsin has been doing better and these latest numbers show we're doing markedly better so that we will end the year with a significant balance this year,” he said.
Secretary Brennan said Gov. Evers would like to see a massive increase in funding for public education. Currently, Republicans in the legislature say they’re willing to increase education spending by $128 million, which is less than a tenth of what Gov. Evers originally proposed in his state budget recommendations back in February.
"We made an unprecedented investment in K-12 education in the last budget, making sure that we do that again,” Secretary Brennan said. “Pushing forward on higher education and UW System, areas like broadband that really are the table stake for economic development no matter where you are in the state of Wisconsin."
Republican State Rep. Adam Neylon of Pewaukee said the surplus should go back to who it came from.
"I think we should look at a wide range of tax cuts, not just focus on income tax or not just focus on property tax, but look at across the board how we can, a broad range of tax cuts,” he said.
Considering Wisconsin is operating with a divided government by having a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, Rep. Neylon said a compromise will be inevitable.
"I think we can and should be open to having that conversation as long as massive tax cuts are on the table,” he said.
Torrie Moffett used to be a teacher and she now works with children and their parents as a social worker. She believes an investment in the future far outweighs some extra cash back next tax season.
"These children don't really have the things that they need to have in order for them to become the people that we want them to become in the long haul. And so putting things in place so that they have the entrepreneurial stuff they need so they know how to handle their finances,” she said.
Wisconsin’s current state budget expires at the end of this month. Republicans and Democrats expect a battle to play out over the coming weeks on how to spend the billions in surplus money.