Legislative Council Plans New Process for Considering Income Tax Reform

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 11:55 PM by

The Legislative Council co-chairs began circulating a ballot today for members of the Council to vote on the special committees that will be formed this summer. The vote is typically just a formality to ratify a list of study committees that has been developed after a couple of months of discussions among legislative leaders.

The list being circulated among the Council members now is surprising in a couple of respects. First, it includes only 6 new special committees – a much smaller number than usual – plus the continuation of one existing committee.  In 2010, during the previous interim period between biennial sessions, the Legislative Council established about 15 new study committees. My first reaction to the slim ballot was that it might reflect that some legislators expect to be very busy during the recall elections; however, those will be completed before the study committee process gets going. Perhaps this ballot is just the first batch of committees, and a second ballot will follow?   (I haven’t had a chance to talk with any legislative staff yet to see if they can provide an explanation.)

The other unusual aspect of the ballot is that it proposes the creation of a new sort of entity – a “steering committee” that is charged with developing “a symposia series on state income tax reform information.”  That committee will be chaired by Representative Robin Vos (R. Burlington) and the vice-chair will be Representative Dale Kooyenga (R. Brookfield).

The ballot goes on to provide some guidance on the role of this new sort of committee:

“The steering committee is directed to: conduct information symposia and develop recommendations regarding Wisconsin’s income tax code. The committee shall: review Wisconsin’s current income tax code, the income tax codes of other states, and previously proposed methods for state tax code reform; consider the social and economic effects of tax code reforms as applied to individual and corporate taxpayers as well as the fiscal effects on state revenues; and develop recommendations, in the form of a committee report, for income tax reform that would improve economic growth for residents and businesses in the State of Wisconsin.”

It isn’t clear to me why those functions couldn’t or shouldn’t be performed by a normal Legislative Council study committee. One possibility is that the distinction will have something to do with the composition of the committee (which isn’t spelled out yet). Perhaps a more important difference is that it sounds like the focus of the committee could be more on outreach and information dissemination, whereas the normal study committee is focused on information gathering.

We’ll watch the development of the committee and the process it uses with great interest.

Jon Peacock

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