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Assembly leaders hope to hold down property tax hikes

The Wisconsin Assembly's new Democratic leaders promise to hold local property taxes down, in a spite of a $5.4 billion state deficit.

A few years ago, lawmakers partially cut their deficits by pushing state programs onto local budgets. And the state's current taxing limits on local governments have now expired.

Rich Eggleston of the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities says Gov. Jim Doyle has hinted at continuing those limits, even though municipal leaders say they're being squeezed too much.

Those limits - plus two state credits - helped limit the increase in the average tax bill by just $4 this year.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, who will co-chair the Joint Finance Committee, says he'd like the new First Dollar Credit raised, thus giving low- and middle-income homeowners a break.

A Doyle spokesman says the governor will do his best to keep property taxes in check.

But lawmakers will have to find some way to make up for billions in lost revenues this year and they've already said they'd try to avoid raising the sales and income taxes.

Doyle has vowed to lower spending as much as possible to keep the damage to people's wallets to a minimum.