2017-2018 Legislative Agenda
- Repeal Wisconsin’s Personal Property Tax
In the 1850s, nearly all personal possessions were subject to property taxation in Wisconsin. Today, most personal property is tax exempt. In fact, the term personal property tax is misleading. The non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance describes it much better “…the personal property tax covers a smattering of items owned largely by businesses. More than anything, it is a tax on retailers and other commercial owners.”
Our views and preferences are accurately reflected in an October 16, 2014 op-ed from then-State Representative Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg), the Chair of the Steering Committee. He wrote:
“Repealing the tax would help spur our state’s economy, particularly among the types of small, Main Street businesses that are the engine of job growth. Every neighboring state either has no personal property tax or is in the process of phasing it out. Wisconsin needs to be competitive if we want economic and job growth. We can take an important step in that direction by repealing the antiquated, unequal and job-killing personal property tax.”
Last May, WIB became a member of the Coalition to Repeal Wisconsin’s Personal Property Tax. 31 statewide business advocacy organizations have joined our group and we continue to seek out more allies. Along with our coalition partners, we are lobbying for the full repeal of the state’s personal property tax.
- Enactment Of A Long-Term, Sustainable State Transportation Funding Plan
Wisconsin’s transportation network includes roads (114,800 miles), bridges (13,700), rail lines (3,600 miles), airports (131) and commercial ports (29). Small, independent businesses rely on this integrated network to bring customers to their store, receive raw materials as well as deliver their products and services to market.
The existing revenue sources available to build, repair and maintain our state’s transportation infrastructure are insufficient. In fact:
1. The growth in annual Transportation Fund revenues over the next five years is projected to be 0.5% – well below the annual rate of inflation (1.9%); and
2. Without any new funding, transportation-related debt service will exceed 22% of state transportation fund revenues by 2019.
The State of Wisconsin is facing once-in-a-generation costs to rebuild substantial segments of our Interstate System, which carries 60% of all vehicle traffic and 75% of all commercial traffic in Wisconsin.
Recently, WIB became a member of the DRIVE (Devote Resources, Invest for a Vibrant Economy) Coalition. Our common goal is the enactment of a sustainable, long-term transportation funding plan that will keep Wisconsin’s economy strong. Collectively, we have united behind the following core principles to guide our advocacy efforts:
1. Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) spending should be reviewed to ensure that incoming tax and fee revenues are being invested efficiently and effectively;
2. Nearly 1.5 million full-time jobs in Wisconsin, in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing, are completely dependent on the state’s transportation infrastructure network;
3. Wisconsin road conditions are deteriorating as revenues have remained flat and crucial road projects are underway that, if delayed further, will cause major disruptions to the traveling public and significant damage to state commerce;
4. Increased bonding will not solve Wisconsin’s transportation funding problem; and
The transportation funding solution must meet the needs of the entire state.
- Small Business Regulatory Relief
According to a September, 2010 report by the federal Small Business Administration entitled “The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms,” small businesses with fewer than 20 employees spend more than $10,500 per employee every year to comply with government regulations. Reducing this financial burden on WIB members remains a top priority for the 2017-2018 legislative session.
Our regulatory relief efforts will focus in the areas of:
1. Unemployment Insurance;
2. Labor and Employment Law; and
3. State Tax Code Administration and Enforcement.
In some instances, outright repeal is the preferred solution for unnecessary state government regulations. Reducing the burdensome nature of excessive state government regulations can also be addressed through simplification or conformity with existing federal government regulations.
- “Small Business-Friendly” Reform Of Wisconsin’s Regulation-Making Process
Reducing the financial burden of state-imposed government regulations on small, independent businesses also requires regulatory reform of the processes by which state government agencies promulgate and enforce regulations. Over the past five years, state lawmakers have enacted a series of “small-business friendly” regulatory process reforms.
For the 2017-2018 legislative session, WIB is seeking enactment of additional “small-business friendly,” regulation-making process reforms including:
1. Streamlining the Process by which Obsolete or Unnecessary State Regulations are Eliminated and\or Repealed
There are more than 11,000 pages of state government regulations divided amongst more than 1,700 chapters of Wisconsin’s Administrative Code. Many of these regulations have not been modified since they were put in place despite changes in the marketplace, customary practices or circumstances.
2. Wisconsin Regulations in Need of Scrutiny (“REINS”) Act
Wisconsin’s administrative rule-making process has improved, but there are still “material weaknesses” in this process that we believe need to be addressed.
During the 2015-2016 legislative session, WIB lobbied in support of the Wisconsin “REINS Act” to bring more accountability, economic expertise and small business input to the processes used by state government agencies to create new regulations.
This legislation failed to receive final approval by the Wisconsin State Legislature during the 2015-2016 legislative session.
State Representative Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) and State Senator Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) have re-introduced their Wisconsin “REINS Act” proposal. It differs from the proposal considered during the 2015-2016 legislation session, but still contains the following key elements:
a) If an economic impact analysis for a proposed regulation indicates that $10 million or more in implementation and compliance costs are reasonably expected to be incurred by or passed along to businesses over any two-year period as a result of the proposed regulation, the state government agency must stop work on the proposed regulation. The state government agency may continue working on the proposed regulation if it is authorized to do so by the enactment of separate legislation. The state government agency may also continue working on the proposed regulation if it modifies the proposed regulation to reduce the implementation and compliance costs below the $10 million threshold;
b) Require a state government agency to hold a preliminary public hearing and comment period on a proposed regulation before the agency begins the regulation-making process, if it directed to do so by a Co-Chairperson of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR); and
c) Allow a Co-Chairperson of JCRAR to request and receive an independent economic analysis of a proposed regulation.
WIB supports this legislation because it: creates a mechanism to provide lawmakers with economic analysis that fairly and objectively accounts for the compliance costs of a proposed regulation; creates an opportunity for small businesses to inform state government agencies of their concerns at the outset of the regulation-making process; and allows lawmakers to take a second look at a proposed regulation if the compliance costs exceed a set amount.
- Expansion Of Broadband Service To Rural WisconsinHigh-speed Internet service is a “must-have” tool of commerce and communication. Unfortunately, for many small, independent businesses in rural Wisconsin, access to broadband service is limited.
Our long-term lobbying objective is universal broadband access throughout Wisconsin. By that we mean all Wisconsin businesses and households have access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service.
In 2013, with the support of WIB, state lawmakers created the Broadband Expansion Grant (BEXG) program administered by the Public Service Commission (PSC). This program provides reimbursement for equipment and construction expenses incurred to extend or improve broadband telecommunications service to areas of Wisconsin that are served by fewer than two broadband service providers.
To date, the PSC has awarded nearly $2.5 million in BEX grant funds which has been matched by over $6.3 million in private and\or local government infrastructure investment. This partnership has made broadband service accessible to more than 5,000 Wisconsin homes and businesses.
WIB believes state laws and regulations should facilitate the deployment of broadband service. That is why WIB lobbied in favor of 2015 Wisconsin Act 278. This new law requires PSC to publish information about permits for broadband network projects and creates a process by which PSC may certify a county, city, village or town as a Broadband Forward! community.
For the 2017-2018 legislative session, WIB seeks enactment of:
1. the Rural Broadband Study Committee Recommendations; and
2. Governor Walker’s 2016 Broadband Initiative.
- Worker’s Compensation ReformIn 1911, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to enact a Worker’s Compensation program. More than 100 years later, the program remains largely unchanged.
Employers with one or more full-time or part-time employees who have been paid combined gross wages of $500 or more in any calendar quarter for work done in Wisconsin are required to purchase a Worker’s Compensation insurance policy. These policies must provide coverage to employees injured in the workplace for all reasonable and necessary medical costs, cash benefits for lost wages, vocational rehabilitation and death benefits.
WIB believes Wisconsin’s Worker Compensation system remains an “outlier” with some of the highest prices paid for medical care in the country because our state’s Worker’s Compensation law does not contain a meaningful health care cost containment provision.
45 other states have solved this problem through the implementation of a “medical fee schedule,” whereby the state establishes a schedule of the maximum fees that a health care provider may charge an employer or insurer for health services provided to an injured worker who claims Worker’s Compensation benefits.
During the 2013-2014 legislative session, the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) – a statutory-created committee which advises state lawmakers on policy matters concerning the development and administration of Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation law – unanimously recommended that the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) be directed to establish a medical fee schedule based on group health negotiated rates. State lawmakers failed to reach consensus on this proposal during the 2013-2014 legislative session.
During the 2015-2016 legislative session, there were no meaningful health care cost containment measures included in the WCAC “agreed-upon” bill that was signed into law by Governor Walker as 2015 Wisconsin Act 180.
The State of Wisconsin cannot continue to be an “outlier.” For that reason, WIB continues to advocate for a change in Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation law that would require DWD to establish a schedule of the maximum fees a health care provider may charge an employer or insurer for health services provided to an injured worker who claims Worker’s Compensation benefits.
- Expansion Of Broadband Service To Rural Wisconsin