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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 21, 2018

Floated ideas, but didn't back increase in sales tax

Gov. Scott Walker pledged during his 2014 campaign not to support an increaes in the sales tax, which has 5 percent since 1982  — though he did float some possibilities.

In December 2013, Walker said he was "envious" of states that had eliminated income taxes and that he could support raising the state's sales tax rate, or eliminating sales tax exemptions, if Wisconsin eliminated its income taxes. But nothing further developed.

(The non-profit Wisconsin Budget Project argued at the time that such a move "would result in a tax increase for all but the wealthiest taxpayers.")

And in October 2014, Walker floated the idea of scrapping the gas tax and replacing it with a sales tax on gas. But he said he would make it part of an overall net cut in state taxes. To replace the nearly 33-cent-per-gallon gas tax would have meant creating a sales tax on fuel beyond the current 5 percent state tax on other items; or keeping some part of the gas tax and then adding the new fuel sales tax on top of that.

In any case, Walker made the stronger pledge and no increase in the sales tax was pursued.

In July 2018, Walker said his administration would begin collecting online sales taxes in October 2018. That was made possible by a June 2018 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that said states could collect taxes for online sales far more broadly than before.

It's estimated that will bring in $90 million in the first year. But Walker has said that whatever the amount, income tax rates would be reduced so that there is not net increase in tax revenue to the state.

In any case, this is not increasing the sales tax rate itself.

It's also worth noting that under Walker, state budgets have approved allowing several communities to utilize the premier resort area tax. But that is a local retail sales tax, not a state sales tax.

Our rating

Walker promised not to support an increase in the state sales tax. He has floated ideas about an increase if, for example, the state income tax were eliminated. But there has been no proposal, by him or others, to raise the tax.

We rate this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin to begin collecting online sales taxes Oct. 1," July 3, 2018

Wisconsin State Journal, "State to expand collections of online sales tax Oct. 1," July 4, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Gov. Scott Walker pitches gas tax change for road funds," Oct. 14, 2014

Email, Wisconsin Policy Forum research director Jason Stein, Sept. 18, 2018

Email, Wisconsin Budget Project director Jon Peacock, Sept. 18, 2018

Email, Wisconsin Counties Association director of research and analytics Dale Knapp, Sept. 19, 2018

Email, Gov. Scott Walker press secretary Amy Hasenberg, Sept. 19, 2018

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 2, 2016

No sign of any increase so far

One of the numerous campaign promises on taxes that have been made by Gov. Scott Walker is a simple one.

Running for re-election in 2014, he pledged "not to support an increase in the state sales tax."

The 5 percent rate has been in place since 1982 and doesn't seem to be headed upward anytime soon.

Back in 2010, shortly after Walker was elected to his first term, a member of his transition team floated the idea of raising the sales tax in exchange for lowering other taxes. But the governor-elect quickly rejected it.

And since then, said Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance research director Dale Knapp, "he's consistently rejected" any such proposal.

Walker's second term doesn't end until January 2019, so it's possible the sales tax could be raised.

That being said, the Legislature is in control of Walker's fellow Republicans. And Walker will be submitting only one more two-year state budget, in 2017, before his term ends.

In the meantime, we rate his sales tax promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Scott Walker campaign, Wisconsin's Comeback Plan, July 2014
Email, Gov. Scott Walker deputy chief of staff for communications Jack Jablonski, April 28, 2016
Interview, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance research director Dale Knapp, April 28, 201

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