Wisconsin lawmakers are back in session and have a large budget surplus to work with. Advocates for the state’s older residents hope any spending plan prioritizes certain needs for this population, and those who care for them.
The Legislature is being asked to reconsider the idea of a Caregiver Tax Credit. Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, said it’s been debated in previous sessions, but the problem hasn’t gone away.
She noted that there are nearly 600,000 unpaid family caregivers in Wisconsin who are feeling a lot of pressure right now.
“They are spending about $7,000 out of their own pockets,” said Dicks, “and that doesn’t count lost wages, lost retirement or other things.”
That figure represents average annual spending for each caregiver.
The plan calls for a tax credit for some family members to reimburse up to 50% of certain expenses, with a limit of $500 per care recipient.
The proposal has bipartisan support but has struggled to make it out of committee.
Dicks said she feels the current budget surplus of $6 billion might spur more fruitful negotiations.
Senior advocates also are calling for a state-run retirement savings option, as well as additional commitments to improve high-speed internet access.
Dicks said now is the time to make life a little easier for the state’s aging population, and address some of the growing obstacles that older residents face.
“This is an opportunity,” said Dicks, “when we have, hopefully, both the money and the goodwill – to tackle this problem, and to put the solutions in place before it gets to be more of a crisis.”
Wisconsin is no stranger to a divided government. But Dicks says there appears to be a sense of compromise in the air.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is expected to unveil his biennial budget proposal in mid-February. Following that, the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee throws in its suggestions before sending it to the full Legislature.
Evers will then have a chance to sign it, reject it, or apply changes with his partial veto power.
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This story was written by Mike Moen, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.