WEDA continues work on bigger, bolder talent attraction proposal

At WEDA’s 2017 Fall Conference, attendees were asked about three legislative proposals offered by WEDA to bolster the state’s employee training programs, retain home-grown talent, and attract in-demand professionals to Wisconsin. While those who responded, including many from the private sector, found value in each proposal, they overwhelmingly said it was not enough. Wisconsin’s workforce shortage is at “crisis level”. Simply put, there are not enough workers in Wisconsin to fill current job openings. As a result, businesses can’t, or are choosing not to grow.

With feedback from the conference in hand, WEDA quickly shifted gears and is now working with state lawmakers to develop a bigger, bolder talent attraction bill. The proposed legislation, which will be introduced in the coming weeks, creates a tuition reimbursement grant program to incentivize out-of-state students who attend college in Wisconsin to remain in Wisconsin after graduation.

Under the bill, an out-of-state student who completes a degree or diploma program from a UW System institution or a Wisconsin Technical College System school and remains in Wisconsin after graduation would be reimbursed, over five years, 50% of the difference between in-state tuition and what they paid in out-of-state tuition. To be eligible for the grant program, an individual must live and work in Wisconsin for two years after graduation. The person would then receive annual grant payments for five consecutive years. They would lose eligibility under the program if they leave the state or stop working.

The program would offer a significant financial incentive to new out-of-state graduates and could be an effective talent attraction tool. For example, an out-of-state undergraduate student who attends UW-Madison pays roughly $24,000 more per year than an in-state student. Doing the simple math, that’s $96,000 over a four-year bachelor’s degree. Under the bill, an eligible individual who graduates from UW-Madison would be “reimbursed” 50% of that difference. That’s roughly $48,000 – or $9,600 a year for five years. Again, quite an encouragement to remain in Wisconsin after graduation.

And the numbers suggest an incentive that big is needed to keep out-of-state graduates here. According to data compiled by the UW System, over 90% of UW System out-of-state students leave Wisconsin within two years after graduation. With more than 3,000 out-of-state students graduating each year, that’s a lot of talent fleeing the state.

We already know Wisconsin has a hard time attracting talent to live and work in the Badger State – for a whole host of reasons, including cold weather and other unfair perceptions of the state. If we’re going to reverse that trend, what better way to start than to focus on a population that has already agreed to move to Wisconsin – at least temporarily. They understand firsthand the value of living in Wisconsin and all the state has to offer. It’s a true incentive program that, at the end of the day, is simply asking out-of-state students to earn in-state tuition by staying, working, and paying taxes in Wisconsin after graduation.

Given the cost of the proposed bill and the short window before the end of the legislative session early next year, it will be a challenge to pass the bill before the Legislature adjourns. However, at the very least, the bill will enhance discussions in the State Capitol about workforce development policies and how the Legislature can best position the state to attract the best and brightest to Wisconsin.

Lawmakers propose bill to restore state Historic Tax Credit program

Gov. Scott Walker’s partial veto of the state budget bill earlier this fall significantly reduced the effectiveness of the state’s Historic Tax Credit (HTC) program.

The governor had originally proposed to cap annual HTC awards at $10 million per year. While the Legislature rejected an overall cap, lawmakers did limit individual HTC awards to a maximum of $5 million per project. Unfortunately, Gov. Walker used his powerful veto pen (striking a “0” from $5,000,000) to set the HTC per project cap at $500,000 beginning in July 2018.

In an effort to restore the HTC as a highly valuable economic development tool, WEDA and our strategic partners worked closely with a group of legislators, including Reps. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) and Rob Brooks (R-Saukville), to help craft the Historic Tax Credit Restoration Act. The bill would increase the current per project HTC award cap from $500,000 to $3.5 million – and reestablish the program as a powerful driver of redevelopment and economic activity in large and small communities across the state.

There is strong support for the proposal in the State Capitol, as many lawmakers understand the HTC is a low risk–high return program that has successfully promoted economic development, eliminated blight, and increased property values. However, it will still take a considerable amount of work to get the bill across the finish line – including the governor’s approval if it makes it to his desk.

The bill should be officially introduced this week. The goal is to move the bill quickly through the legislative process before the Legislature adjourns in early 2018. The WEDA government affairs team will continue to advocate for passage of the bill and will keep members updated on its progress.

WEDA participates in Dark Store Day

In an effort to encourage state lawmakers to pass legislation to close the dark store tax loophole in Wisconsin, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities declared Dec. 11, 2017 as “Dark Store Day” in Wisconsin. Large retailers are using the dark store strategy to artificially lower their property tax bills at the expense of homeowners and small businesses.

WEDA supports the legislation (Senate Bill 292) to eliminate the tax loophole and joined local leaders across the state on Monday to recognize December 11 as “Dark Store Day.” WEDA is calling on the Legislature to pass SB 292 to prevent an unfair tax shift to other property owners and to protect the financial viability of TIF districts in communities across Wisconsin.

Click here to read WEDA’s “Dark Store Day” press release.

WEDA Bill Tracker: Follow WEDA’s legislative activity

The WEDA Legislative Committee reviews all economic development-related legislation proposed by the Legislature and takes appropriate action on each proposal – including efforts to support, oppose, or simply monitor any given piece of legislation. WEDA members can review the full list of bills WEDA is lobbying on or monitoring; the Association’s position on each bill; and the status of each proposal on WEDA’s Legislative Bill Tracker. The bill tracker is updated weekly and provides members with an accurate snapshot of WEDA’s legislative efforts.

Since the last edition of Political News and Notes, the WEDA Legislative Committee has reviewed and voted to support a handful of legislative proposals, including Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) legislation, a crowdfunding bill, and a number of workforce development-related legislation. Here is a list of new bills supported by WEDA that could help advance economic development in Wisconsin:

  • Bill Number:  SB 505 / AB 600
  • Bill Description:  Authorizes the Town of Cable, WI (Bayfield County) to create a TID in the same manner as a city or village, despite not meeting current law valuation and population requirements.
  • Bill Status:  Senate Bill 505 was referred to the Senate Economic Development, Commerce, and Local Government Committee and received a public hearing on 12/12/17. Assembly Bill 600 was referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and received a public hearing on 11/30/17.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  SB 525 / AB 640
  • Bill Description: The bill creates the Wisconsin Innovation Fund – which would be funded through a payroll tax “TIF” – to provide grants for economic development programs aimed at Innovation and the development of new technologies; new product research and development; small business accelerators; and strengthening industry cluster partnerships.
  • Bill Status: SB 525 was referred to the Senate Economic Development, Commerce and Local Government Committee and received a public hearing on 12/12/17. AB 640 was referred to the Assembly Small Business Development Committee.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  SB 534 / AB 641
  • Bill Description: Codifies Wisconsin’s commercial building and plumbing review practices in state statute. They currently reside under the Wisconsin Administrative Code.
  • Bill Status: SB 534 was referred to the Senate Economic Development, Commerce and Local Government Committee and received a public hearing on 12/12/17. AB 642 was referred to the Assembly Housing and Real Estate Committee.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  SB 579 / AB 659
  • Bill Description:  Requires that if the WI Department of Revenue recertifies the base value of a TIF district due to the district’s subtraction of territory, the municipality where the TIF district is located may increase its levy limit by an amount equal to 50% of the subtracted territory’s value increment.
  • Bill Status: Senate Bill 579 was referred to the Senate Government Operations, Technology, and Consumer Protection Committee and received a public hearing on 12/07/17. Assembly Bill 659 was referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and received a public hearing on 11/30/17.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  SB 583 / AB 692
  • Bill Description:  Makes numerous technical statutory changes to better align state securities law with federal securities rules. In addition, the bill authorizes brokers to advertise crowdfunding securities sold though a state approved Internet site.
  • Bill Status:  Senate Bill 583 was referred to the Senate Financial Services, Constitution, and Federalism Committee. Assembly Bill 692 was referred to the Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  SB 613 / AB 729
  • Bill Description:  Creates an exemption to state revenue limits, allowing school districts, under certain circumstances, to exceed limits for expenditures related to capital improvements for vocational education, including the purchase of work stations, machinery, and other equipment to support technical education.
  • Bill Status:  Senate Bill 613 was referred to the Senate Education Committee. Assembly Bill 729 was referred to the Assembly Education Committee.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  SB 620 / AB 734
  • Bill Description:  Creates an income tax deduction for tuition expenses paid by an individual, or paid by a corporation on behalf of an individual, for an apprenticeship program approved by the WI Department of Workforce Development. Under the bill, the amount of the deduction is equal to tuition expenses incurred by or on behalf of an individual.
  • Bill Status:  Senate Bill 620 was referred to the Senate Revenue, Financial Institutions, and Rural Issues Committee. Assembly Bill 734 was referred to the Assembly Workforce Development Committee.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  SB 628
  • Bill Description:  Authorizes high school students to enter a full apprenticeship program in a student’s senior year, if all the following apply: The student is on track to graduate high school; 2.) The student has time to complete other school requirements; and 3.) The student is awarded high school credit for the apprenticeship.
  • Bill Status:  Senate Bill 628 was referred to the Senate Workforce Development, Military Affairs, and Senior Issues Committee.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT


If you would like additional information on WEDA’s advocacy efforts, please visit the Legislative Bill Tracker or contact the WEDA office at

Quick Notes

QN – Economic development professionals in Wisconsin and across the country are paying close attention as Republican congressional leaders negotiate differences between the two versions of the GOP Tax Reform bill passed by the House of Representative and Senate. The Senate version of the bill retains the federal historic tax credit program and preserves the new markets tax credit, while the House version eliminates both. A final agreement between the two houses – via a conference committee – is expected as soon as this week. GOP congressional leaders hope to pass the bill and send it to President Trump for his signature before Christmas.

QN – Wetland regulatory reform legislation (SB 600 / AB 547) will receive a joint public hearing next week before two legislative committees. The legislation, which WEDA supports, would exempt artificial wetlands from state permitting and mitigation requirements. The bill would also eliminate the state permitting process for non-federal wetlands. WEDA will be expressing its support for the bill at the hearing.

QN – On Nov. 30, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee held a public hearing on the TIF subtraction bill (AB 659). The legislation, which WEDA supports, would permit municipalities that subtract territory from a TIF district to increase their levy limit by an amount equal to 50% of the subtracted territory’s value increment. Current law does not allow for levy-limit adjustment for TIF subtraction. The bill would provide an incentive for municipalities to use the TIF subtraction process, which could result in additional local tax revenue, immediate property tax relief, and new economic development opportunities. WEDA member Mike Harrigan testified in favor of the bill at the hearing, and as usual, did a tremendous job. Click here to read his testimony.

QN – Gov. Scott Walker recently announced a proposal to invest nearly $7 million in state money for WEDC’s THINK.MAKE.HAPPEN campaign aimed at attracting more professionals to live and work in Wisconsin. Under the governor’s plan, the marketing campaign, which would be a joint effort by WEDC, the Department of Tourism, and the Department of Workforce Development, will focus on three key populations: millennials in surrounding states, Wisconsin alumni who live outside Wisconsin, and military veterans. Legislation to implement the governor’s proposal was recently unveiled by Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) and Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah).

QN – Legislation has recently been proposed to eliminate the ability of the state Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) to make trust fund loans. The BCPL currently makes loans to local governments and other public entities for certain public purposes. The bill would end the loan program. Over the years, BCPL loans have supported numerous economic and community development projects that could not secure affordable funding from other sources. The WEDA Legislative Committee is currently reviewing the bill for a potential position.

QN – Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has appointed Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) to the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee – the Joint Finance Committee. Stroebel replaces Sheila Harsdorf, who recently left the Legislature to serve as secretary of the WI Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.