WEDA Legislative Update

As was reported in the last edition of WEDA Political News and Notes, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers introduced his two-year, $91 billion state budget bill on Feb. 16, which included numerous economic and workforce development provisions of interest to WEDA members.

The budget bill is now in the hands of the Republican-controlled Legislature, where lawmakers are expected to largely rewrite the proposal before sending it back to the Governor. The Legislature’s budget-writing committee will hold public hearings on the budget next month, and in May will begin to reshape the bill before it is sent to the full Legislature for final approval.

As the budget process unfolds, the WEDA Government Affairs Team will be pursuing several of our legislative priorities in the budget. Last, week the WEDA Legislative Committee voted to focus on the following budget initiatives:

  • Funding for broadband expansion in unserved areas of the state.
  • Incentives to promote the development of much needed workforce housing in Wisconsin.
  • Investment in statewide talent attraction efforts.
  • Preservation of the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax credit, which Gov Evers has proposed cutting for manufacturers.  
  • Support for state funding for local economic development efforts.

While it is very early in the state budget process, WEDA is already discussing our priorities with lawmakers and will soon be asking WEDA members to reach out to their local legislators on our budget goals.

While much of the current activity in the State Capitol is focused on the budget bill, lawmakers are still taking action on stand-alone, non-budget legislation. Of particular note are the following two bills passed by the Legislature last month that are instrumental to the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • COVID-19 Civil Liability Immunity – Included as part of a comprehensive unemployment insurance reform bill, the Legislature approved language to provide immunity for businesses and other entities from civil liability for a COVID-19-related injury or death, except in the case of reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct. The immunity is retroactive to claims accruing on or after March 1, 2020, but does not apply to an action filed before enactment of the bill. Gov. Evers signed the bill into law as 2021 Wisconsin Act 4 on Feb. 25, 2021.
  • Paycheck Protection Program; Included as part of a wide-ranging state tax code bill to adopt various recent federal tax law changes for the purposes of state income and franchise taxes, lawmakers approved a provision to federalize Wisconsin tax law with respect to treatment of loans under the paycheck protection program and deduction of expenses paid with funds from such loans. In addition, the bill provides an exemption of income from state income and franchise tax, and allows deduction of expenses paid from such income, for income received from certain economic support programs funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund created under the federal CARES Act. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Evers as 2021 Wisconsin Act 1 on Feb. 18, 2021.

In addition, the Legislature is currently considering the following bills that are supported by WEDA:

  • Bill Number:  Assembly Bill 38 /  Senate Bill 44
  • Bill Description: Creates an application fee exemption for veterans and members of the U.S. armed forces applying for admission to University of Wisconsin System schools or Wisconsin technical colleges.
  • Bill Status: AB 38 was was referred to and passed by the Assembly Universities and Colleges Committee on 3/11/21. SB 44 was introduced and referred to the Senate Universities and Technical Colleges Committee.
  • WEDA Position: SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  Assembly Bill 56 /  Senate Bill 76
  • Bill Description: 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 clarifies that after the termination of a TIF district, state aid payments are shifted to the other taxing jurisdictions.
  • Bill Status: AB 56 was referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and received a public hearing on 03/18/21. SB 76 was introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Government Operations
  • WEDA Position: SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:   Assembly Bill 69 /  Senate Bill 78
  • Bill Description:  Provides comprehensive expungement reform to help strengthen Wisconsin’s workforce. The bill proposal would:
    • Eliminate the state mandate on judges to grant/deny expungement at the time of sentencing.
    • Eliminate the current requirement that expungement can only be granted for crimes committed before the age of 25.
    • Specify that an expunged crime cannot be considered a conviction for employment purposes.
    • Clarify that only low-level offenders are eligible for expungement.
  • Bill Status: AB 69 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. SB 78 was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
  • WEDA Position: SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  Assembly Bill 115 /  Senate Bill 125
  • Bill Description: Creates an income tax deduction for tuition expenses paid by an individual to participate in an apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Workforce Development.
  • Bill Status: AB 115 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Workforce Development Committee. SB 125 was introduced and referred to the Senate Economic and Workforce Development Committee.
  • WEDA Position: SUPPORT

  • Bill Number:  Assembly Bill 152 /  Senate Bill 167
  • Bill Description: Creates an exemption from the examination requirement for certain building plans and plumbing plans and modifies other aspects of the building plan review process.
  • Bill Status: AB 152 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Regulatory Licensing Reform Committee. SB 167 was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee.
  • WEDA Position: SUPPORT

  • Bill Number Assembly Bill 156 /  Senate Bill 172
  • Bill Description: Creates a State of Wisconsin workforce housing income tax credit for multi-family housing projects for individuals and families that make at least 61% but not more than 100% of area median income. The tax credit would be administered by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
  • Bill Status: AB 156 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. SB 172 was introduced and referred to the Senate Financial Institutions and Revenue Committee.
  • WEDA Position: SUPPORT

Throughout the 2021-22 legislative session, please remember to make use of the WEDA Bill Tracker to follow and learn more about the bills WEDA is lobbying on as they work through the legislative process. It includes bill numbers, bill descriptions, the status of legislation, and WEDA’s position on all tracked proposals.