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Budget committee Democrats push through tax increases

The state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee has endorsed two major tax increases in Gov. Jim Doyle's state budget.

The eight Republicans on the panel were not able to stop the eight Democrats Thursday from voting to double the state transfer fee for home sales.

By the same vote, the committee also approved a doubling of the limit on local property tax increases, from 2 percent a year to 4. The home-selling fee would be an extra $300 on a $100,000 property.

Republicans say the downturn in the housing market makes this a horrible time to raise the fee. But Democrats said it has not been raised since 1982, and local governments will share in the extra revenue for critical services like police and fire protection.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the increase in the levy limit will raise property taxes by an average 3.4 percent in December. That hike was less than 1 percent this year. Republicans said it would hurt homeowners who are already being taxed to the max.

But Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, told them "Wisconsinites are not with you. They want services."

The GOP says it won't give up trying to keep the tax increases out of the budget. Each party controls one of the two houses and that guarantees that a conference committee will need to hammer out a difficult compromise sometime this summer.