The budget and youWisconsin budget affects smokers, phone users
By: By Scott Bauer, AP Writer, Superior Telegram
MADISON — Cigarette smokers and car owners, phone users and high earners, state workers and prison inmates all have a reason to care about the two-year state budget that Wisconsin's Legislature passed Friday. Some of the ways the budget reaches into people's daily lives:
SMOKE 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM:
— Cigarette taxes will rise 75 cents a pack to $2.52 beginning Sept. 1. That comes after a $1 per pack increase that started this year.
— People making over $225,000 a year, and households earning more than $300,000 a year, will have to pay higher income taxes effective this tax year.
— The tax exemption on capital gains profits, currently 60 percent, will drop to 30 percent.
— Anyone who owns a cell phone, landline phone or any device that can call 911 will have to pay a new fee of 75 cents per month, which will be directed to local governments to help pay for fire and police protection.
— It will cost 15 percent more to register a boat in Wisconsin, and a new nonresident $15 boat sticker will be created beginning in January.
— Prospective gun owners will have to pay $13, up from $8, to get the required background check.
CALLING JOHNNY DEPP:
— The 1-year-old film tax break program credited with helping lure Johnny Depp and the "Public Enemies" production to Wisconsin will be eliminated and replaced with a more conservative program that film backers say wouldn't be generous enough to land A-list Hollywood stars.
CALLING ALL CONVICTS:
— Some felons will be able to get out of prison earlier under a package of reforms designed to ease overcrowding, save money and better prepare inmates for life in the community.
CALLING ALL YOUNG CONVICTS:
— Criminals up to age 25, instead of 21, could have their records expunged if they meet certain criteria.
— Police will be allowed to pull over drivers for not wearing a seat belt. Currently, police can issue a ticket for that offense only if the driver is pulled over for a different violation.
— While sales taxes will not increase statewide, they could be raised in the Chippewa Valley, Dane, Milwaukee, Ashland and Bayfield counties to pay for transit needs, including high-speed rail. Rental car fees could also soar from $2 to $18 in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties to pay for a rail line connecting those three cities.
— Teachers may be in line for larger raises since the 16-year-old state law known as the "qualified economic offer," which effectively places a cap on teacher pay increases, is eliminated.
— Children of illegal immigrants who graduate from Wisconsin high schools and have lived in the state for three years could qualify for in-state tuition at Wisconsin universities and technical colleges.
— There's not much good news. All state workers will be forced to take 16 days off without pay over the next two years. About 1,400 could be laid off. A 2 percent pay raise is being rescinded, pending union approval for many workers, and most state agencies are being cut 6 percent.
— Insurance companies will be required to cover autism and mental health disorders.
— Some of the same benefits enjoyed by married couples will be extended to gay and lesbian couples who live together and form domestic partnerships. Domestic partners of state employees will receive the same state retirement and health insurance benefits as spouses.
— Wisconsin drivers will have to buy liability insurance starting in a year or face up to a $500 fine. Minimum car insurance requirements also will rise, which the insurance industry says will lead to higher rates.