JFC Reworks Governor Evers Tourism Proposal

The Joint Finance Committee reworked Tony Evers’ proposal to promote tourism in Wisconsin, including paring back money designated for marketing.

The centerpiece of Evers’ plan was a call to put $5 million for the agency’s marketing appropriation while putting in another $186,700 for a new marketing position. He also wanted to add $200,000 over the budget for Tourism’s Native American Tourism budget, which is funded by tribal gaming.

Instead, Republicans approved placing nearly $1.6 million in general purpose revenue in the committee’s supplemental appropriation that Tourism could come back to seek later.

Republicans said they were hesitant to approve the proposed increase without additional information on how it would be spent. The agency plans to complete in July a new strategic plan to guide its future marketing strategy and didn’t have a defined role for the proposed new position.

The state now spends $12.5 million on tourism promotion, including just more than $1.8 million in GPR. The bulk of the effort is funded by tribal gaming revenues, and it hasn’t increased significantly since hitting $12.3 million in 2011-12.

Rep. Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg, said he couldn’t support the requested money because “there’s no concrete evidence of what’s going to be done.”

But Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, called what Republicans approved “anemic” and “pathetic,” saying it leaves the state behind others for investments in tourism.

“Your priorities don’t seem to be investing in local economies and local communities,” she said.

The marketing boost Evers proposed included an additional $3 million in 2019-20 that would support promotional efforts for national events, including the Democratic National Convention in July 2020 and golf’s Ryder Cup in September 2020.