Koch-Backed Electioneering Group Pushing Hard for Property Tax Cut

June 2, 2017

A rightwing electioneering group that has spent more than $5.7 million since 2010 to help elect Republican legislative and statewide candidates is pushing hard for a property tax cut in the proposed 2017-19 state budget.

Americans for Prosperity, which was created and funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, said Wednesday it strongly supported Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget plan to end the state forestry mill tax.

The tax, which costs the owner of a median-valued home about $27 a year, is used not only to pay for forestry programs but also to pay for equipment used by local fire departments to fight forest fires. Walker wants to replace the $90 million a year raised by the tax with taxpayer dollars from the state general fund.

The property tax cut is up for a vote soon by the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which is expected to wrap up its work on the proposed budget and send it to the full GOP-controlled legislature for consideration this month. The committee’s co-chairs, GOP Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren, support eliminating the forestry mill tax.

Americans for Prosperity, whose past electioneering activities included television ads, mailings and door-to-door canvassing, warned Republican legislators on the committee not to vote against this. “Our activists will be watching closely to see which committee members have the courage to give Wisconsin taxpayers the relief they deserve and demand.”

Opponents, including forestry groups, say Walker’s proposal could threaten forestry funding because it would have to compete with high-priority funding issues, like medical assistance and education.

Most of Americans for Prosperity’s spending, about $4.8 million, on outside electioneering activities has been to support Walker in his 2012 recall and 2014 reelection campaigns. Most of the group’s remaining spending, about $935,000, was spent in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections to help incumbent Republican senators and candidates.