News of the Day

Wisconsin Audit Initiative Provides 12 to 1 Return on Investment

The 2015-2017 biennial budget, Wisconsin Act 55, requires the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to annually report to the Joint Committee on Finance the actual or estimated amounts of state tax revenues generated by, and expenditures associated with, the additional full-time, audit-related positions created by Act 55.

This year was a record year for the audit initiative. “The initiative, which primarily focuses on out-of-state audits and investigations of out-of-state companies generating revenue in the state, is greatly surpassing all expectations,” notes Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary Peter Barca.

The Act 55 goal for FY2019 was additional audit collections of $82 million. Auditors and audit-related positions created by Act 55 generated $159.9 million, with an additional $857 million in assessments pending payment or appeal resolution as of June 30,2019. The resulting return on investment is 11.8 to 1.

Secretary Barca expects the audit initiative to continue providing real value to Wisconsin taxpayers. “Our goal is to ensure a level playing field for Wisconsin companies by making sure that their out-of-state competitors pay the taxes they owe. In the end, it’s about fairness and ensuring that Wisconsin businesses are not paying more than their fair share of taxes.”

Wisconsin’s Population Continues to Grow

Wisconsin’s population has grown every year since the 2010 Census. The gains have not been especially large, a net gain of between 9,400 to 18,300 people each year.

This last year was no different. The state added 15,028 people, an increase of 0.26%. The gain brings Wisconsin to a net increase of 135,448 people since 2010. The state’s 2.38% growth since 2010 ranks 37th in the country.

Most of Wisconsin’s population gain in the last year came from its natural increase with 63,712 births outpacing the state’s 50,393 deaths. Total net migration added another 1,903 people with a net gain of 3,341 internationally offsetting the net loss of 1,438 people domestically.

Since 2010, Wisconsin has seen a net loss of 12,755 people through migration with the loss of 72,006 residents domestically outpacing a gain of 59,251 from outside the U.S.


WEDC: $250 million in Taxpayer Dollars Invested in over 3,000 jobs, $1.2 Billion in Expansion

Wisconsin’s economic development managers say $250 million in taxpayer money in 2019 could return more than a $1 billion to the state.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) on Thursday released it’s list of the top 15 projects of 2019.

These include investments in companies across the state. The top 10 projects cost taxpayers $10 million.

“2019 was a successful year for WEDC in carrying out our mission to advance and maximize opportunities for Wisconsin businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment,” WEDC CEO Missy Hughes said. “These companies and communities play a key role in strengthening our state’s economy by investing in Wisconsin and creating jobs that pay well.”

The top projects on the WEDC’s list are tax break deals for two paper companies. The first deal is the $1.7 million in tax credits for ND Paper Inc. that is earmarked for expansion at its mill in Biron. The WEDC says those tax credits will create 27 new jobs, but maintain 342 others.

The $850,000 in tax credits for the Nouryon Pulp and Performance Chemicals company in Howard is the second ‘investment’ on the WEDC’s list. Those tax breaks are being credited with helping to expand the company’s plant in Howard and create 56 news jobs.

In all, Hughes claims WEDC helped create or save thousands of new jobs in Wisconsin.

“The more than $1.2 billion in planned capital investments for the projects supported by WEDC this year are expected to create more than 3,165 jobs and retain almost 14,000 jobs across the state,” WEDC said in a statement.

There some deal however that have drawn some questions. The WEDC list includes $250,000 in tax credits for John Deere and $500,000 in tax credits for Menard’s. Both companies are profitable. WEDC says the tax credits will retain 768 jobs at Deere and another 2,988 jobs for Menard’s.

Wisconsin Bankers Expect Good Economy to Carry over into 2020

Wisconsin’s economy is in good shape and poised for a solid year of lending in 2020, a survey of state bank executives shows.

In a poll by the Wisconsin Bankers Association, 79% of bankers rated the economy in as “good,” while 16% called it “excellent.” Five percent rated it as “fair,” and none of the 83 survey respondents considered the state economy “poor.”

When asked how they expected the economy to perform in the next six months, nearly three of four expected it to stay the same and about one in four thought it would grow. Only 5% in the survey, which was conducted over the first two weeks of December, expected it to weaken.

Low unemployment and interest rates, strong manufacturing, a diverse economic base and robust consumer confidence were among factors cited by the bankers for the upbeat outlook on the economy, the bankers trade group said.

Forty-five percent said the businesses in their markets would be hiring new employees in the first half of 2020, while 54% expected them to maintain current staffing levels and only 1% projected layoffs.

Only 8% of the bankers surveyed said business or commercial real estate lending would weaken in the first half of 2020. Fourteen percent thought residential real estate loans would slip.

But 36% felt agriculture lending would weaken. Fifty-six percent expected farm lending to stay the same as in 2019, and 9% foresaw farm loan growth.


Wisconsin Republicans Considering Property Tax Cut in 2020

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature are considering a property tax cut proposal that would be introduced early in 2020, the leader of the state Senate said Friday.

Discussion of a property tax cut comes in the wake of homeowners receiving the tax bills in December. Those bills could amount to the largest property tax increase in 10 years, the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum said in a report this week.

“People are a little surprised,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said at a news conference.

Republican senators are in the early stages of putting together a tax cut proposal, but there’s no targeted amount yet, he said. That will partly depend on the state’s tax revenue forecast, which is looking good and will be updated next month, Fitzgerald said.

The amount of the cut must be substantial enough to garner support to do it, he said. One option being discussed is shifting some of the money that currently funds technical colleges off the property tax bill and onto the state’s general fund, Fitzgerald said.

“I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” he said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos supports a tax cut, said spokeswoman Kit Beyer, “but it all depends on how successful the economy is next year.”

U.S. House Approves USMCA Trade Deal

The House passed a new North American trade deal on Thursday, ending a more than year long slog to iron out Democratic concerns about the agreement. The chamber approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, one of President Donald Trump’s economic and political priorities, in an overwhelming 385-41 vote. Thirty-eight Democrats opposed it. The trade pact now heads to the Senate, which is expected to ratify it next year.

USMCA tightens rules of origin for auto parts and requires a larger share of cars to be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour. It also increases access to Canadian dairy markets for American farmers and updates digital trade rules, among other provisions. Canada and Mexico are the largest U.S. export markets.

The GOP-held Senate is also expected to pass USMCA with bipartisan support. It is unclear when exactly the chamber will ratify the agreement.


Committee Approves Pay Raises for State Workers

A bipartisan legislative committee unanimously approved pay raises Wednesday for state and University of Wisconsin employees, but Republicans shot down Gov. Tony Evers’ request to raise the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour.

The Joint Committee on Employment Relations — made up of six Republicans and two Democrats — approved the 2 percent wage increases for the employees in both 2020 and 2021. Those raises have already been approved by the Legislature’s budget committee.

A proposal to give state troopers retroactive 2 percent pay increases and an over 20 percent starting pay increase did not get a vote at the public hearing Wednesday.

Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association President Chad Thompson said higher pay would help recruitment, which is suffering.  “When I was a new trooper back in 1997, I know Vernon County had five troopers, and today they have one, kind of, who is currently deployed with the military,” Thompson said. “So really, Vernon County has no trooper.”

Members of the committee indicated the troopers aren’t totally out of luck. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told them to come back with a base pay increase in the single digits. “I would be open to giving raises that are significantly higher than the rate of inflation, but not 20-plus percent,” Vos said.

School Property Taxes Rebound

School property taxes across Wisconsin are rising by more than $220 million on December 2019 tax bills.

On tax bills sent out this month, Wisconsin’s school districts together are raising property tax levies by 4.5% – the largest year-over-year increase in a decade. The rise reflects changes in the state budget, as well as recent referenda passed by voters in many individual districts to exceed state-imposed revenue limits. In addition, new data show growth in levies for counties (2.2%) and technical colleges (3.1%), suggesting that the 2019-20 gross property tax levies in Wisconsin might see the highest increase since the last recession.

The tax data come from the state Department of Revenue (DOR) and include the levies reported by counties, technical colleges, and school districts, which together account for roughly two-thirds of all property taxes in Wisconsin. Statewide figures are not yet available for municipalities, special districts, and tax increment districts, which make up the remaining share of property taxes.


​Open Enrollment on Extended

Yesterday, federal officials announced today that open enrollment for health insurance on has been extended through 2 a.m. CST on Wednesday, December 18.

The announcement, which was made Monday morning, comes after some individuals using the federal call center on the final day of open enrollment were asked to leave their names instead of being allowed to enroll. Wisconsinites can call 2-1-1 to get free expert help enrolling or can go to to enroll online.

“This is great news for folks in Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable. “If you missed the deadline, you now have two extra days to get affordable health insurance for you or your family. You may also still qualify for tax credits that could keep your monthly premiums low. Call 2-1-1 to get free expert help, reach out to an insurance agent in your community, or visit to sign up now.”

“There are two more days to enroll in health care on,” said Department of Health Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “There are affordable plans available but make sure to call 2-1-1- to work with a health insurance expert to sign up for high-quality health insurance.”

Wisconsin Governor: No Tax credits for New Foxconn Plant

Gov. Tony Evers’ top aide warned Foxconn Technology Group last month that a scaled-down factory in Wisconsin won’t qualify for tax credits unless the Taiwanese electronics giant renegotiates with the state, letters Evers’ administration released Friday show.

State Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan wrote to Foxconn Industrial Internet Chief Business Officer Richard Vincent on Nov. 4 warning that the new project doesn’t qualify for incentives under the existing contract. Foxconn’s U.S. strategist, Alan Yeung, responded to Brennan’s letter by accusing Evers’ administration of wasting the company’s time with contract arguments.

“Distractions like these leave job creators and job seekers wondering if doing business in our great state is welcomed by Governor Evers’ Administration (sic),” Yeung wrote in a Nov. 18 letter to Brennan.

The letters chronicle discussions between Evers, Brennan, Foxconn executives and leaders of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state’s quasi-public job-creation agency, dating back to April.

“We want to work together with you to help make Foxconn’s new project as successful as possible,” Brennan wrote. “The ability to do that requires Foxconn to recognize that there are consequences arising from its unilateral decision to change projects well after the Contract was in place.”