Governor Evers Signs GOP-Authored State Budget with Billions in Income Tax Cuts

Governor Tony Evers on Thursday signed the Republican-authored state budget, heralding its more than $2 billion in income tax cuts and vowing to provide an additional $100 million in federal money for the state’s schools beyond what the GOP provided.

In all, Governor Evers kept the most significant aspects of the GOP budget intact, using his veto power 50 times compared to the 78 vetoes he made in signing the state budget two years ago.

The budget will bring down the income tax rate from 6.27% to 5.3% for income between about $24,000 and $263,000 a year, or between $32,000 and $351,000 for married filers. All told, officials say the plan would save taxpayers $2.7 billion over the two-year period, including $2 billion of which would be direct tax cuts.

The budget also comes with about $650 million in property tax cuts, which would save the owner of a median-valued home about $100 in December, according to fiscal bureau estimates. In the next year, the tax bill on the same home would increase $32 from the previous year.

The budget still sets aside about $202 million in state funds to cover the cost of eliminating the state’s more than 170-year-old personal property tax, which businesses pay on equipment and machinery. However, Evers on Thursday vetoed separate bipartisan legislation that would have officially eliminated the tax.

Governor Evers said he planned to veto the legislation over concerns that it might provide tax cuts to manufacturers located outside the state who have warehouses in Wisconsin though Republicans amended the bill to address concerns before it passed the Legislature.

Application Period Open for $420 million in Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants

Applications for up to $420 million in new Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will open at 8 a.m. Monday, May 24 through 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 7, Governor Tony Evers announced today.

The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants program is a collaboration between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Department of Revenue (DOR). The effort, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

The grants will provide as many as 84,000 Wisconsin small businesses with annual gross revenue between $10,000 and $7 million with a flat award of $5,000.

The grants are part of Gov. Evers’ plan to use the $2.5 billion the state will receive under the ARPA, which includes $600 million in funds designated to supporting small businesses. The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery grants are included in that $600 million.

The new grants will target Wisconsin small businesses, including those that started in 2020, in sectors that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Individuals and businesses interested in learning more about the Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant program by visiting the main page of the Department of Revenue, www.revenue.wi.gov.


Audit Cites Problems Leading to Unemployment Payment Delays

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development was responsible for 11 of the 13 weeks it took, on average, to process unemployment claims filed since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to an audit released Monday.

The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau report looked at a sample of nearly 270 people who had filed claims between March 15 and April 11 but who had not received payment as of June 20, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Workforce Development transition director Amy Pechacek said in a written response to the audit that the agency does not dispute that the pandemic and increased workload caused delays in processing claims.

“We do, however, find that the way the report portrays certain activities as delays or inactions based on a certain point in time may provide an incomplete representation of the activities involved in processing a claim,” she said.

In response to the latest audit, state Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos criticized Evers and his administration for not acting sooner to extend call center hours, transfer state employees or require DWD staff to work overtime to process the backlog of claims.

Vos and Assembly Republicans have proposed legislation that would require the department to eliminate the backlog within 30 days, further expand call center hours and include cutting state employee pay if they don’t resolve the issues.

Federal and State Government Resources

These resources are organized by 4 categories:

  • Federal and State Small Business Assistance Resources
  • Federal and State Taxes
  • Employment, Workforce, and Workplace
  • Miscellaneous

Federal and State Small Business Assistance Resources (updated 10/9)


SBA Paycheck Protection Program

SBA COVID-19 Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources

CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19


Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation – “We’re All In” Small Business Grant Program

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation – Small Business 20/20 Program

Wisconsin Small Business Center: COVID-19 How We Can Help Businesses

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation – Strategies and Resources for Small Businesses to Navigate through COVID-19 in Wisconsin

Federal and State Taxes


Internal Revenue Service – COVID-19 Tax Relief for Businesses



Wisconsin Department of Revenue COVID-19 Information and Announcements


Employment, Workforce and Workplace


Department of Labor: Families First Coronavirus Response Act Employer Paid Leave Requirements

Department of Labor: Families First Coronavirus Response Act FAQ

Department of Labor: Families First Coronavirus Response Act Workplace Poster

Department of Labor: Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Workplace Poster FAQ

Department of Labor: COVID-19 and the Fair Labor Standards Act

Department of Labor: Field Assistance Bulletin Temporary Non-Enforcement Period Applicable to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

EEOC: What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19

OSHA: Guidance on Preparing Workplace for COVID-19

OSHA: Prevent Worker Exposure to COVID-19


Department of Workforce Development: COVID-19 and Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Department of Workforce Development: COVID-19 and Worker’s Compensation

Department of Workforce Development: COVID-19 and Equal Rights


Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance – Guidance for Delivery Drivers During COVID-19 Crisis


Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions – Emergency Guidance on Remote Notarization


Mnuchin Seeks $250 Billion More in Small Business Aid, Senate Vote Planned for Thursday

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that, at the direction of President Donald Trump, he has spoken with congressional leaders to secure an additional $250 billion for the small business loan program as the coronavirus outbreak hammers the economy.

Mnuchin said he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to secure the funding.

McConnell said earlier Tuesday he hopes to approve further funding Thursday to buoy small businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I will work with Secretary Mnuchin and Leader Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday,” he said in a statement.

Congress late last month approved a $350 billion small business loan program as part of a more than $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at helping the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The program is aimed at helping small businesses that provide the engine of employment and entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy.

Justice Roggensack Re-elected as Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has been re-elected to a third, two-year term leading the court.

The court announced her re-election by fellow justices Tuesday. The result was public, but the vote was done in secret and the breakdown was not announced.

Roggensack replaced Justice Shirley Abrahamson as chief justice in 2015 after voters approved a constitutional amendment giving justices the power to elect the chief justice. Prior to that it had automatically gone to the longest-serving member, who is Abrahamson.

Roggensack is one of the four majority conservative justices. Abrahamson is one of three minority liberal members.

Roggensack says in a statement that she is honored to continue serving as chief justice. She has been on the Supreme Court since 2003.

The chief justice also serves as the administrative head of Wisconsin’s judicial system.

Push for Internet via TV Airwaves Comes to Wisconsin, Despite Broadcaster Opposition

Broadcasters don’t like it, but a national push for TV airwaves to be used for internet expansion in rural areas is catching on in Wisconsin.

Lawmakers in the state Assembly approved a joint resolution encouraging federal regulators to enable broader use of so-called “white space” technology in under-connected areas on Thursday, weeks after Gov. Scott Walker released a similar statement.

Groups like the Wisconsin Technology Council, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance have also come out in support of white space broadband, joining a Microsoft-led coalition called Connect Americans Now that’s calling for Federal Communications Commission action on the issue.

The concept isn’t new: For years, there have been discussions of taking unused radio frequencies between TV channels to transmit internet data across the countryside, from towers to roof-mounted antennas in consumers’ homes. However, white space technology is still young, and has only recently emerged as a potential solution in rural broadband policy discussions.

Microsoft has long tinkered with white space technology, running pilot programs on its campus in Redmond, Washington, and in locations in Africa. Last year, it began talking about the technology more seriously: It released a white paper advocating for its use to expand broadband access in rural America. This January, it launched Connect Americans Now.

White space connections are currently capable of speeds of about 5 to 10 megabits per second, said Mitchell — “which many of us consider very slow,” he said. Those speeds would likely improve over time.

Zach Cikanek, a spokesperson for the coalition that visited Madison last week to promote the campaign at a Wisconsin Technology Council luncheon, said that he believes the excitement is already there. He asserted that what ISPs and manufacturers really need is some assurance from federal regulators that white space broadband can be a safe bet.

“The technology has reached a point where it’s ready to go,” said Cikanek. “The trick now is to have that regulatory certainty.”

The coalition specifically wants rules that would keep three channels in any given market open for unlicensed broadband use, instead of television use. The frequencies in question are ones below 700 megahertz, that are well-suited to traversing hilly or forested terrain.

Broadcasters say the FCC has already been reorganizing TV channels to free up white space for broadband use through “spectrum auctions.” Their argument is that Microsoft should have paid for a slice of the airwaves as part of that process.

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Ryan Pledges GOP will Pass ‘Very Ambitious’ Tax Reform Plan this Year

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, pledged to manufacturers that Congress and President Trump will “fix this nation’s tax code once and for all.”

Ryan, speaking at a National Association of Manufacturers event, laid out outlines of a “very ambitious plan” that House Republicans are working to put into legislation. And he said Republicans will “get this done in 2017” because the current tax code is hurting the U.S. economy and is too complex for families.

“This whole system is too confusing, and it’s just too darn expensive. We have got to stop this madness. Don’t you agree?” he said as the NAM 2017 Manufacturing Summit attendees applauded.

Ryan noted Trump introduced principles for tax reform that Congress is working off to develop a “transformational tax reform plan.” That work is already underway in the House GOP, Ryan said, sharing some elements of what Congress’ plan would look like.

Ryan said the plan would slim the number of tax brackets from seven into three and eliminate tax loopholes to cut the overall tax rates.

The plan would eliminate “harmful, burdensome taxes” for individuals, such as the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax, which Ryan called the “death tax.” It also would “clear out special interest carve-outs and excessive deductions,” Ryan said, though it would keep deductions for homeowners, charitable giving and retirement savings.

Ryan also said the plan would reform what’s become the “worst business tax system in the industrialized world.” Eight out of ten businesses, he said, file their taxes as individuals and pay a top marginal tax rate of 44.6 percent. The U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent, he added, is above the industrialized world average of 22.5 percent.

And the way the U.S. taxes corporations’ foreign income, he added, is pushing American companies to base their headquarters overseas.

“This is not the kind of exceptionalism we should aspire to,” he said.

Ryan called tax reform the “crown jewel” of the Republicans’ economic agenda, though he lauded the work Congress and Trump has done on reducing regulations. He also touted Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Financial CHOICE Act passed by the House GOP that eliminates several Dodd-Frank provisions.

“Clean up the regulations, reform the tax code, there’s no stopping us,” Ryan said.

UI Trust Fund Projected to Exceed $1.2 Billion on Key Date

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) recently released the 2017 Unemployment Insurance (U) Financial Outlook Report, which projects continued growth for the Wisconsin UI Trust Fund throughout the projection period. In addition to continued growth, the UI Trust Fund is predicted to have a balance of $1.2 billion or greater on June 30th, which would result in the third straight year that Wisconsin employers who participate in the UI program would experience a tax reduction. Due to the vastly improved Wisconsin economy and common-sense reforms made to the UI program, when combined with the reductions for the 2016 and 2017 tax years, tax schedule changes are estimated to reduce total UI taxes by over $150 million.

“Wisconsin’s UI Trust Fund has come a long way over the past six years, from a deficit of over $1 billion which brought over $360 million in additional costs to employers due to borrowing money from the federal government to a healthy UI Trust Fund balance of over $1 billion,” DWD Secretary Ray Allen said. “Wisconsin’s Trust Fund is continuing to grow, but we must ensure that we avoid the additional burden that borrowing money to pay benefits puts on the employers who fund UI benefit payments.”

The projections are included in the state’s 2017 UI Financial Outlook report, which DWD submitted on April 14 to the Governor and legislative leadership as required by statute.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Wisconsin’s UI Trust Fund ended 2016 with a positive balance of roughly $1.2 billion
  • UI benefits are expected to stay at historically low levels throughout the projection period, and the UI Trust Fund is expected to grow to over $1.5 billion by the end of 2019
  • Wisconsin’s UI Trust Fund balance is projected to be greater than $1.2 billion on June 30, which will move UI taxes to the lowest tax schedule, schedule D. This would result in a tax reduction for the third straight tax year for most Wisconsin employers covered under the UI program.

Other indicators of the health of Wisconsin’s UI program and overall economy include:

  • Initial UI claims ended 2016 at their lowest level since 1988. Year 2017 initial UI claims are running at their lowest levels in at least 30 years
  • Continuing UI claims ended 2016 at their lowest levels since 1973. Year 2017 Continuing UI claims in Wisconsin are running at their lowest level in at least 30 years.

14-State Coalition Defend Executive Order to Ease Over-Regulation

Attorney General Brad Schimel and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey are leading a 14-state coalition urging a federal court to uphold an executive order aimed at reducing the regulatory burden on state governments and citizens.

“In recent years, bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. have been expanding their power and reach through regulatory actions, and little has been done to remove unnecessary federal regulations,” said Attorney General Schimel. “This executive order will protect Wisconsin from more years of the same, allow Wisconsinites to operate in a simplified regulatory environment, and protect our state’s sovereignty.”

The friend-of-the-court brief, filed late Monday, defends the “1-in-2-out” rule, which strives to eliminate unnecessary and costly regulation by requiring the federal bureaucracy to do away with two regulations for every new rule it creates. The coalition argues that the executive order effectively reins in a bureaucracy that has implemented a far greater regulatory burden than Congress ever envisioned.

The brief further contends past presidents, of both political parties, have enacted similar mechanisms to ensure review of regulations within the executive branch. Such measures have instructed agencies to consider the cumulative costs, the impact on the national economy and the effect of rules on state and local government.

Wisconsin and West Virginia filed the coalition’s brief before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Other states participating are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming.