Bill to Eliminate Wisconsin’s Personal Property Tax Passes Committee with Bipartisan Support

A bill to eliminate the state’s personal property tax, which businesses pay on equipment and furnishings, received bipartisan support in a Senate committee Tuesday.

The bill was recommended for approval by the Senate workforce committee 4-1, with Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, the lone vote against the measure over concerns future Legislatures could stop providing local entities more state aid to make up for the lost revenue.

The budget committee last week voted to set aside about $202 million for such payments over 2021-23 biennial budget. However, officially eliminating the tax, which lawmakers described as an antiquated and unfair tax on businesses, would be done through separate legislation rather than through the budget process.

Both the budget and a standalone bill to end the tax are expected to come before the Assembly and Senate next week. “It’ll be a great day when we can finally get rid of this tax,” bill author Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said Tuesday.  Stroebel said the intent is to keep providing local taxing authorities with state money to compensate for the reduction in revenue.

Sen. Brad Pfaff, D-Onalaska, said he hoped that revenue to local jurisdictions would be included in future budgets.

“I too have heard from my small-business owners. I recognize the importance of this,” Pfaff said. “But I do want to make sure we keep whole our local units of government.”

More than 40 lobbying groups have filed in favor of eliminating the tax, including business groups and local chambers of commerce. The AFSCME International Union and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin oppose the bill.

Eliminating the personal property tax through standalone legislation would limit Gov. Tony Evers’ ability to alter it through his partial veto power, which can only be used on bills that spend money, like the budget. But it also opens the door to the Democratic governor vetoing the legislation altogether.