Rebecca Kleefisch: ‘Taxes are too darn high’
Majority attending tax reform roundtable agree

By By Alison Fox  - Freeman Staff

June 27, 2014

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, left, and Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler participate in a tax reform roundtable Thursday afternoon.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

PEWAUKEE - Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler held a Tax Reform Roundtable meeting Thursday and the majority of attendees agreed that Wisconsin taxes are too high.

“There has been several key takeaways from these meetings - that taxes are too darn high,” Kleefisch said. “We knew that, and that’s why we’re doing this.”

The meeting was held at VJS Construction Services, Inc. and nearly 20 leaders in construction and commercial real estate industries were present to express their concerns with state taxes as well as give suggestions for the 2015-17 budget.

Kleefisch asked the group three questions that she described as the “Goldilocks” method - Do you think taxes are too high, two low or just right? Almost all hands in the room were raised when asked if taxes are too high.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, center, and Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler, right, listen to participants in a tax reform roundtable Thursday afternoon.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

At the request of Governor Scott Walker, Kleefisch has been traveling around Wisconsin and hosting meetings to talk one-on-one with different types of taxpayers. The meetings are meant to help develop ideas for the next budget that will meet the expectations of Wisconsin residents.  

“This is why we are here,” Kleefisch said. “We want to reform taxes until people are happy.”

One major concern raised at the meeting was the high percentage of property taxes on both homeowners and businesses. Many believed the tax is potentially hindering job creation in Wisconsin, therefore hindering the state’s overall workforce and economy.

Jim Barry, president of Cassidy Turly, a commercial real estate service company, said people and businesses may avoid moving to Wisconsin when they see how much they would have to pay in property taxes as opposed to other states.

Nearly everyone involved in a tax reform roundtable raises hands when asked
if taxes are too high in Wisconsin.

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

“My dad is in his 80s and has the pleasure of spending half the year in Naples,” Barry said. “He came to the decision that it would just make more sense to become a Florida resident because of the cost.”

The majority of those at the meeting agreed about lowering  property taxes to attract corporations and persuade new college graduates to stay instead of searching for work out of state.

Kleefisch said she is not surprised to hear the concern about property taxes. She said outcomes from previous meetings and independent surveys and polls taken by Wisconsin taxpayers showed the same results.

“There are common things and threads that have developed, and we are able to see how Wisconsinites are united in some things,” Kleefisch said.

Kleefisch told the group to imagine the income tax, property tax, sales tax, and government spending tax as four separate dials. She then asked which dials they would prefer to turn up and down.

While a couple of attendees said they would prefer government spending to be turned down, the majority said they want property and income taxes lowered. A few people also suggested raising sales taxes.

Kleefisch also asked if the business owners and representatives preferred long-term tax rate reductions over firsthand tax exemptions. The majority said yes.

Kleefisch said everything she heard at the meeting will be taken into consideration while the new budget is crafted. She said she the administration is working to drive down the tax burden in the state, and one way to do this may be through income and property tax relief.