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Unity Among Conservatives: Eliminate the State Income Tax

Eliminate the State Income Tax

By: Courtney Gustafson

Wisconsin is a middle-class state with coastal-elite taxes, and working-class families know it’s time for big change. Conservative grassroots are even taking action and are poised to adopt a resolution at the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s (RPW) state convention in Appleton this Saturday, May 18th, calling on all lawmakers to eliminate the state’s personal income tax.

No more tinkering around the edges: working families need bold leadership to catapult Wisconsin to the top. Currently, nine states do not have an income tax, and Wisconsin could be number ten. If not, states like Iowa, Mississippi, Colorado, and Arkansas will pass us by, luring our families and businesses along the way. There’s a race underway in the country for workers, and workers are more mobile now than ever before. Simply put, states that take action will win.

That’s why former Governor Scott Walker supports elimination. It’s why former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch supported elimination on the trail in 2022, and it’s why many lawmakers like Senate President Chris Kapenga, Sen. Rob Hutton, and Rep. Adam Neylon all support elimination.

Wisconsin’s top income tax rate (7.65%) is the 9th highest rate in the country and the second highest in the Midwest. Even Illinois has a lower income tax rate! And Iowa, under Governor Reynolds’ conservative leadership, is working to eliminate their income tax altogether.

This is a policy that has real-world implications. In my case, my parents grew up in Illinois, but moved our family to Wisconsin due to a job opportunity in the late 90s. After living in Brown County during the early 2000s, my parents chose to stay in the state because the northeast Wisconsin quality of life and the affordable cost of living was more of what they wanted for their young family than the Chicago suburbs could offer.

After graduating from college in Wisconsin, I moved to the East Coast for work and lived in Washington D.C. for five years. I knew living in our nation’s capital would not be an affordable option for raising a future family, so I chose to move back to Wisconsin in 2021. Today, I am happy to be back, but I know many families are making different decisions today on where to settle down because of how crushing the tax burden has become here. This is not a good strategy for attracting young millennial and Gen Z families to Wisconsin to work and build their futures or to keep retirees here.

Although I’m an exception and chose to move back, the truth is that so many people are leaving Wisconsin to go to states like Tennessee, Florida, and Texas – aka states that do not have a personal income tax. In fact, 60% of people who leave Wisconsin are leaving to states with low and no income taxes. And when they leave, they take their income out of our economy – to the tune of $2.6 billion! That exodus will get worse as more states pass us by. Not to mention the lost opportunity from no longer being an attractive place for those looking to relocate.

This year, a resolution has been passed by grassroots members of county and district Republican Party caucuses asking all lawmakers to be bold and work to eliminate the state’s income tax. That resolution now goes before all delegates at the RPW Convention on May 18th.

I encourage all delegates to the convention and grassroots activists around the state to support income tax elimination. By passing the resolution, it will be clear that there is unity among the working class and conservative activists – we want bigger paychecks, less waste in government, and bold action on eliminating the income tax.

Wisconsin was the first state to implement an income tax in 1911. We can rectify that mistake by being the first state to fully repeal it as well. (The nine states without one were smart enough to never enact it in the first place!)

I, like many others, want my friends and family who have left for income-tax-free states to move back to Wisconsin. And I want others looking to flee from their own high-tax state to consider Wisconsin.

It’s time to take the necessary steps forward to make Wisconsin the tenth state in the nation to eliminate our personal income taxes!

Courtney Gustafson is the Director of External Affairs for the Institute for Reforming Government. Learn more and keep informed on how you can help eliminate the income tax in Wisconsin here.

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