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New Assembly Speaker not ready to talk tax increases

The new speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly says he isn't ready for any talk of a sales or income tax increase.

"It's way farther down the road than I'm prepared to go," said Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville.

He was chosen Wednesday to lead the lower house after his party took back the majority in last week's elections.

Gov. Jim Doyle said this week that the next two-year budget will have a record deficit of more than $5 billion.

For the first time in his six years in office, Doyle said it might be necessary to raise the state's two largest taxes.

He said he'd try other things first, though.

In 1983, former Democratic Gov. Tony Earl raised the sales tax 1 percent, and slapped a temporary 10 percent surcharge of income and corporate taxes.

He suggested in a recent interview that the surcharge be brought back.

But for now, at least, Democrats are not embracing the idea, knowing it could make them lose their jobs the way Earl lost his when he was defeated for re-election in 1986.

State Democratic Party chairman Joe Wineke said the tax hikes did not do Earl in, since many lawmakers who approved the hikes were re-elected.

Wineke was one of them. He was in the Assembly at the time.