Rebecca Kleefisch

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch listens during a tax reform round table with area business leaders Tuesday at Western Technical College. The event was part of a statewide tax reform tour.

Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch stopped in La Crosse on Tuesday morning seeking input on the state’s tax code and ideas for reducing the tax burden on Wisconsin residents.

Part of a statewide tour, Kleefisch and state Department of Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler talked about tax cuts, job creation and governmental reform at a roundtable discussion at Western Technical College.

“We’d like to continue on this pattern of prosperity,” Kleefisch said, citing the state’s $911.9 million surplus that Gov. Scott Walker recently pledged to return to taxpayers. “The way to do that is for people to keep more of their money.”

Those attending Tuesday’s discussion represented a variety of interests, including banking, real estate, health care, business, economic development and education.

Participants cited challenges such skills gaps, supporting workforce training and providing recruitment incentives while fostering growth in both rural and urban municipalities. Attendees offered ideas such as raising the sales tax, and rewarding businesses for job retention as well as job creation.

“My clients are saying taxes are too complex,” said Mary Jo Werner, a CPA and partner with Wipfli in La Crosse.

One option to simplify would be to reduce the number of tax credits in favor of a gradual, long-term rate reduction, Kleefisch said.

Wellness tax credits and programs to keep employees healthy have shown a $3 return for every $1 invested, said Michael Richards, executive director of external affairs at Gundersen Health System.

John Hendricks, superintendent of the Sparta Area School District, voiced concern about the state’s school aid formula, saying the current model — which draws funding in part from property tax credits — creates disparity among districts with differing property wealth.

Wisconsin’s tax profile is defined by individual income and property tax rates among the nation’s highest and lower-than-average sales taxes.

Gov. Scott Walker’s “Blueprint for Prosperity Plan,” unveiled Jan. 22 in his state of the state address, calls for $504 million in property and income tax cuts over the next 17 months, bringing the administration’s total tax cuts up to $2 billion.

Citing tax reform as a key factor in job creation, Chandler highlighted cuts to income tax and deductions for Health Savings Accounts, health insurance premiums, child care and private school tuition as important factors for Wisconsin’s future. Further improvement will come from business tax incentives such as manufacturing and agriculture tax credits, he said.

“When those sectors thrive, all do well,” he said.

“We’d like to continue on this pattern of prosperity. The way to do that is for people to keep more of their money.” Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch
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