MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Revenue Department employees who work to collect delinquent taxes are mean and should be more compassionate, a Republican state senator said Wednesday during debate over whether to add more staff in that area.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, made the comments during a meeting of the Joint Finance Committee. The committee was considering Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to add 15 employees to collect delinquent taxes for the state Department of Revenue.
"I think most people out there realize their collections people are more difficult than the IRS collections people. It shouldn't be necessary," Grothman said. "Sometimes these guys are unnecessarily mean and heartless."
Revenue Department spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in a statement that the agency strives to achieve high levels of professionalism and is continually working to improve operations.
"Providing excellent customer service is a top priority at DOR," Patrick said.
Grothman, an often outspoken conservative Republican, said many people who owe delinquent taxes are restaurant owners or others trying to start a business that goes under and can't pay. Grothman described those failed business owners as "someone who is supposed to be what Republicans like."
"We ought to have more compassion for them," he said.
Grothman's comments drew derision from Republicans and Democrats alike.
People who pay their taxes on time support increased efforts to get money from those who owe, said Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, the committee's co-chair.
"As a citizen in good standing a lot of us would say 'right on'," Darling said of Revenue Department efforts to collect delinquent taxes. "While you think they are mean people, they have a job to do in our state."
Ultimately, Grothman voted with every other committee member to add the positions.
The Revenue Department estimates that about $1 billion in taxes are delinquent, but only about $400 million is deemed to be collectible.
The Joint Finance Committee also approved adding 33 auditors to increase enforcement of state tax laws based on federal audit reports and 13 Revenue Department positions to prevent and reduce fraudulent refund and tax credit claims.
Creating the new positions would cost an estimated $13.5 million but could result in the collection of about $82 million in additional taxes over the next two years.
The committee also agreed to create new civil and criminal penalties for people who file reckless or fraudulent claims for the homestead and earned income tax credit programs. Democrats succeeded in adding a provision that broadened those penalties to include all refundable tax credits under the individual income and corporate income/franchise tax.
Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said it was only fair to broaden the new penalties because those who apply for the earned income tax credit and homestead credits are typically poor and elderly. The committee approved the change on a unanimous vote.
The Joint Finance Committee is working on making revisions to Walker's budget. The Senate and Assembly, both controlled by Republicans, must approve the budget in the same form before it heads to Walker for his consideration. He has the power to make line item vetoes.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Visitors to Green Bay's Neville Public Museum will soon see hours slashed. The county-owned attraction is cutting access starting the first of the year.
An 11-foot-long model of the Japanese passenger liner Hikawa Maru is being sent back to Japan after 34 years at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc.
Area volunteers are making a difference in the community this holiday season. At this time of the year, many people are looking for ways to help their neighbors. The Salvation Army is one of the many places where you can do just that.
For the second year in a row, St. Norbert College could house overflow of homeless people from the St. John the Evangelist shelter in Green Bay.
A memorial fund has been created for a Grand Chute firefighter killed in a weekend car crash.
Appleton police executed a search warrant Thursday in connection with a fatal nightclub shooting.