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In This Edition…

  • Legislature Passes Wisconsin Opportunity Zones Development Bill
  • Local Workforce Housing Incentive Bill Moving Through Legislature
  • Legislation to Cap TIF Developer Incentives Officially “Dead”
  • Department of Workforce Development Now Accepting New Fast Forward Grant Applications
  • Follow WEDA Legislative Issues as Session Draws to an End

Legislature Passes Wisconsin Opportunity Zones Development Bill

Last week, the Legislature passed one of WEDA’s top legislative priorities – the Wisconsin Opportunities Zone Development Bill. The legislation is now awaiting Governor Tony Evers’ signature.

The bipartisan legislation (Assembly Bill 532) will enhance Opportunity Zones tax incentives in Wisconsin to help drive private investment to economically challenged, capital-starved communities across the state.


Under the federal Opportunity Zones program established by Congress in 2017, low-income community census tracts were used to determine eligible Opportunity Zones to ensure private investment is directed to economically distressed communities. Wisconsin has 120 Opportunity Zones, which are in every congressional district, 44 counties and 60 municipalities across the state.

Ultimately, Opportunity Zones aim to unlock billions of dollars in unrealized capital gains by offering tax incentives that encourage investors to reinvest their gains into Opportunity Zone projects, including business expansion and start-ups and significant commercial and residential development.

By doubling the Opportunity Zones capital gains tax reduction at the state level for individuals who invest in Wisconsin Opportunity Zone projects, AB 532 will encourage Wisconsin investors to keep their wealth in-state to help create inclusive economic opportunities in both urban and rural Wisconsin communities.

These Opportunity Zones projects will have a positive impact on communities in terms of job creation and retention and other community needs, such as affordable housing and quality childcare facilities.

The Assembly approved the legislation on a unanimous voice vote. The Senate passed the measure on a bipartisan 26-7 vote.

The WEDA Government Affairs Team is working to encourage Governor Evers to sign AB 532 into law – and help make Wisconsin an even better place to live, work and do business.

Local Workforce Housing Incentive Bill Moving Through Legislature 

One of the biggest obstacles to continued economic growth in Wisconsin, and the largest challenge facing employers, is the state’s current workforce shortage. And a major contributing factor to our labor shortage is the lack of available workforce housing in communities across the state.

Thankfully, the Legislature is paying attention. In fact, last week, the Assembly unanimously passed legislation (Assembly Bill 859) to provide local communities with the necessary tools to advance the development of much-needed workforce housing.


The proposal, which is another WEDA legislative priority, would help address Wisconsin’s growing housing crisis through several provisions aimed at boosting workforce housing development at the local level, including:

  • Increasing the amount of residential development permitted in a “mixed-use” Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district to 60% of the district. Current law limits residential use to 35% of a mixed-use TIF.
  • Expanding from one year to three years the length of time a community may extend the life of a TIF district for the purpose of increasing the amount of workforce housing in the community.
  • Allowing communities to exempt workforce housing development from local impact fees.
  • Encouraging local communities to implement policies that promote additional workforce housing development.

The bill was heard last week by the Senate Economic Development Committee and appeared to have strong support among lawmakers on the committee. Despite bipartisan backing, the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, as numerous senators have concerns about any proposal that provides greater TIF flexibility.

The WEDA Government Affairs Team is currently working with key senators to generate the support needed to schedule the bill for a full senate vote.

Legislation to Cap TIF Developer Incentives Officially  “Dead” 

Legislation introduced late last year by Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) to cap developer incentives for projects in tax incremental financing (TIF) districts is officially “dead” for the current legislative session.

The bill, which WEDA strongly opposes, would have have capped TIF developer incentives to 20 percent of the total project costs of a TIF district. This provision would have significantly limited the ability of communities to use TIF for redevelopment projects that often require incentives to reimburse developers for the substantial costs associated with blighted sites. The bill would have also required a unanimous vote of a TIF district’s governing Joint Review Board to amend a TIF project plan that expands the territory of the district.

In short, the bill would have restricted the TIF flexibility needed by communities to take advantage of economic opportunities, preventing key development projects and putting Wisconsin at a competitive disadvantage.

Due to a strong lobbying effort by WEDA and our strategic partners – including the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and the Wisconsin Realtors Association – the bill stalled early in the legislative process. Now that the Assembly has adjourned for the year, the bill has no chance of passing this session.

Thank you to all WEDA members who contacted their legislators on this important issue. Your grassroots advocacy was a keep component to WEDA’s successful advocacy efforts.

Department of Workforce Development Now Accepting New Fast Forward Grant Applications 

The Department of Workforce Development’s Office of Skills Development (OSD) is again accepting applications for the Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) grant program.

The Department has redesigned its grant offerings into a single grant opportunity, “Industry Sectors Worker Training Grants.” This grant program is designed to help fund development of innovative and collaborative customized worker training programs.


The objective of the Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) standard grant program is to provide industry sector worker training grant awards that target unemployed, underemployed, and incumbent workers that will qualify them for full time employment, higher level employment, or increased wages.

Key features of the revamped grant program include:

  • Grants are available to all industry sectors and to any size of company;
  • Grant award amounts may range from $5,000 to $400,000;
  • Cash or in-kind match equal to 50% of the grant award amount is required;
  • Grantee must complete training of at least 85% of the trainees; and
  • At least 65% of trainees must be placed in positions that require the skills learned in the provided training.

The deadline to apply is Tuesday, March 31, 2020. CLICK HERE for more information and to apply for the Fast Forward grant.

Follow WEDA Legislative Issues as Session Draws to End

With state lawmakers preparing to adjourn for the year in the coming weeks, it’s more important than ever for WEDA members to keep up-to-date on legislation that has passed, bills that will ultimately fail and those still working their way through the legislative process in the last days of the session.

Thankfully, WEDA makes bill tracking easy. To help  members track legislation that could have an impact on economic development, we developed the WEDA Legislative Tracker tool.


The Tracker lists and allows members to follow and learn more about the bills WEDA is lobbying on and monitoring. The Tracker includes the bill number, a brief description of the bill, its status and WEDA’s position on the proposal.

In addition to the Opportunity Zones bill and local workforce housing incentive bill discussed earlier in this edition of WEDA Political News and Notes, there are a number of other important legislative proposals WEDA has worked to advance. Listed below are handful of those bills that have either been approved by the full Legislature or have been passed by the Assembly and are awaiting potential action by the Senate before it adjourns in mid-March:

Legislation Passed by the Full Legislature:

  • TEA Grant Bill (SB 319) – Another WEDA legislative priority, this bill (signed into law as 2019 WI Act 63) restores the Department of Transportation’s authority and long history under the Transportation Economic Assistance (TEA) grant program to award grant funding for transportation improvement projects that both create and retain jobs. The new law ensure will sustain the success of a program that advances transportation projects that spur private sector employment and capital investment.
  • Rural Broadband Expansion Bill (AB 344) – This bill, which is awaiting the Governor’s signature, repeals the telephone company tax on infrastructure used to provide internet service in rural and underserved areas to help encourage rural broadband expansion. To qualify for the exemption, installed property must be used to provide Internet access at a speed of at 25Mbps/3Mbps or as designated by the FCC.

Legislation Awaiting Action in the Senate:

  • Workforce Housing Pilot Program (AB 544) – This bill, which recently passed the Assembly on an overwhelming 97-1 bipartisan vote, would create a two-year, $10 million workforce housing pilot program administered by WHEDA to encourage the creation of single-family and multi-family workforce housing in rural Wisconsin counties. Under the program, WHEDA will award grants, loans, loan guarantees, or other forms of financial assistance to up to three communities in rural counties.
  • Personal Property Tax Aid Payments (AB 620) – Current law exempts certain machinery NOT used in manufacturing from the personal property tax. To hold municipalities and other taxing jurisdictions harmless, current law also provides them with state aid payments to compensate for the loss of property tax revenue. However, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue interprets current law to mean state aid payments made to a TIF district terminate when the TIF district closes. This bill, which passed the Assembly on a voice vote earlier this month, clarifies that after the termination of a TIF district, state aid payments are shifted to the other taxing jurisdictions.

Click here to review the WEDA Legislative Tracker –  and find out the status of additional WEDA bills of interest.